Matchmaker By Juli November 2000
"I dunno, Amanda..."
Amanda Bently's job as a medical examiner might have her looking at dead bodies all day long, but she knew how to work with live people too. Immediately, the hesitant tone in Jesse's voice told her that she had the young man right were she wanted him. Ruthlessly, Amanda pressed in for the kill, trying not to feel guilty for manipulating her trusting friend.
After all, this was for his own good.
"C'mon, Jesse. You can't pine after Susan forever. Trust me, this friend of mine is perfect for you. Intelligent. Attractive. Tall. A real athletic type."
Her description caught Jesse's attention. "Tall? Attractive?" Amanda's description pushed most of the young doctor's buttons and, in spite of himself, he became interested. Then reality set in. Turning towards the other physician, eyes narrowed in suspicion, he asked, "If this woman's so great and such a good friend of yours, how come I haven't heard of her before?"
Amanda rolled her eyes and silently apologized to whatever higher power was listening for her deception of omission. "I'll be sure to drop off a copy of my Christmas card list for your convenience, Mr. Nosey-pants. I don't ask you for a list of everyone you know, do I?" When her friend looked a little chagrined about his doubts, she insisted that he make a decision. "Well, are you in or not?"
Jesse Travis shrugged his shoulders and blushed. "Sorry about that, Amanda. It's just that ever since Susan broke of our engagement, everybody at Community General and Barbecue Bob's has been trying to set me up with somebody. I'm beginning to feel like it's open season on bachelors... and I'm the prey of choice."
Amanda saw the pain hiding in Jesse's eyes and reached out to briefly touch his arm in understanding. "I know how you feel. It wasn't all that long ago that I was re-entering the dating market. But, that's exactly why I think this would be a good match for you. This particular friend has had a lot of heartache and bad luck with relationships- almost to the point of being gun shy. I think you'd be good for each other."
Something in Amanda's depiction of her friend resonated with Jesse. Heartache was something he could relate with, that was for sure. Besides, who was he kidding? The young man knew it was beyond him to deny Amanda Bently anything.
"All right, all right. I'll meet your friend for dinner tonight."
"Great! Jesse, you're not going to regret this, I promise." Amanda gave the blonde doctor a quick kiss on the cheek, excited that this part of her plan had worked. After providing him with the information for where to meet his date for the evening, Dr. Bently turned and strode quickly down the hospital corridor. She had a telephone call to make....
.... and, she needed to get out of earshot before it occurred to Jesse that she never did tell him the name of the person that he'd just agreed to meet.
Steve Sloan looked at the restaurant in trepidation. Oh, Vecchio's looked to be a very nice place, but it'd been years since he'd been suckered into a blind date. Why had he ever listened to Amanda? No matter how wonderful this friend of hers was, he somehow doubted that they were made for each other the way Amanda thought. He hated blind dates -why had he let her talk him into this?
At the final mental question, Steve snorted. When had he ever been able to deny Amanda anything? Dr.Bently was a force to be reckoned with and, when her mind was made up on something, it would take a stronger man than him to resist her.
Resigned to his fate, he entered Vecchio's front door, only to stop short when he realized that Amanda had never told him what his date's name was. Great, talk about starting the evening out on the right foot.
Steve rather sheepishly approached the snooty-looking maŚtre de. "Excuse me, I think I have a reservation for 8 o'clock?"
The portly, tuxedo-clad man gave him a frosty look. "And what name do you *think* your reservation is under?"
"My name is Steve Sloan, but I'm meeting a someone here and I don't know what name that would be..."
Steve's rambling explanation was cut off by a rapid thawing of the maŚtre de's demeanor. "Ah, Mr. Sloan, we've been expecting you. Right this way, Sir." The other man came out from behind his station and gestured towards a side corridor. A little nonplused by the rapid reverse in attitude, the detective nevertheless moved in the proper direction.
"Dr. Bently was precise when making the arrangements. You and your companion have the Raymuindo Room all to yourselves."
"My companion?" Steve turned to look at the restauranteur in confusion.
"Yes, yes. The other party has already arrived." The maŚtre de stopped in front of a door marked "private party" and opened it with a little bow. "Here you are, Sir. Hors d'oeuvres are already served. Your waiter will be in shortly to deliver your main course and to make sure everything is satisfactory." And, just like that, the man was gone.
"Well, Amanda sure went all out for this," Steve muttered under his breath as he opened the door. "I guess I can't chicken out now." Taking a deep breath to settle himself, the big blonde opened the door and entered.
Out of long habit, the detective took immediate stock of the room. The door he was entering was the only exit. One table, draped with white linens and set for two, occupied the center of the room. The lights were dimmed, with candles providing auxiliary illumination. A glass cart laden with trays was placed next to the tables and the delicate aroma wafting across the room made it safe to assume that these were the aforementioned appetizers. A wall of plate glass looked out across the moonlit beach, the soft romantic music that played through unseen speakers muffling the sound of the waves. Jesse was standing next to the windows, pensively staring out at the moonwashed water.
Jesse? As in Dr. Jesse Travis?
Steve did a double take. What the hell was Jesse doing here? Had Amanda screwed up and made blind dates for her friend with both Steve *and* Jesse?
"Jess? What are you doing here?"
Dr. Travis startled, apparently having been lost deep in his own thoughts. Turning around, his eyes widened when he saw the tall detective. "Steve? I foolishly agreed to go on a blind date, that's what I'm doing here. What are *you* doing here?"
Steve Sloan wasn't one of the most valued detectives on the LAPD for nothing. Quickly, he put two and two together. "Funny thing, I'm on a blind date too. Let me guess, Amanda set yours up, didn't she?"
Jesse was slower to figure it out. "Yeah. You don't think she set us both up with the same woman, do you?"
"No, Jess, I don't. Matter of fact, I don't think she set us up with a woman at all."
"But if she didn't set us up with a woman, what're we both doing here...." Steve could almost see the bulb light up over Jesse's head. "No way, Steve! You really think she set us up on a date with each other?"
Steve scratched his head in embarrassment. "Yeah, I think she did."
"Why would Amanda go and do something like that?"
The older man found himself becoming a little bit angry. Yeah, he thought Amanda's idea was a lousy one too, but obviously for different reasons than what Jesse thought. A dream, one that he'd never let himself consider seriously, started to die with Jesse's protests. Turning away from his young friend, he grabbed the bottle of wine that was open and chilling by the table, and poured himself a generous glass. "I don't know. Maybe she thought we'd be good together." Steve quickly downed half of the drink, thinking it ironic that the wine was dry and bitter.
Jesse came up behind him so quietly that he didn't know the younger man was there until he felt a tentative touch on his arm.
"Steve, I didn't mean it that way. I just meant...." Jesse let out an explosive sigh, frustrated that the right words weren't coming.
The detective took pity on him. "You just meant that you're not interested in guys and you don't know why Amanda would think you'd want to be in a romantic relationship with one. Especially me." Steve put the wine glass down with a thump, thankful that it was no longer full so that the elegant tablecloth wasn't stained by wine sloshing out.
Jesse rapidly got tired of looking at Steve's back and circled until the two men were face to face. "That's not exactly true," When his older friend looked down at him in confusion, he explained. "Well, I've never dated or been with a guy, but I've thought about it. A lot. Especially about you." Blushing, he looked down at his feet, suddenly shy around his best friend and business partner.
Steve had never seen Jesse shy before and he didn't quite know how to take it. One thing he did know for certain was that he didn't like to see the younger man's head bowed, as though he were ashamed to face him. Tenderly, he cupped Jesse's chin with one hand and lifted the other man's face until their eyes could meet. "I've done more than think about it, Jess. I just don't advertise the fact."
"Oh, man," Jesse whispered, not sure if his current breathless state was because of Steve's admission or if it were due to the sensation of having the bigger man's hand on him. "I- I didn't know that."
The detective kept telling himself that he should let go of Jesse now, but his hand didn't seem to want to cooperate. Instead, he shrugged his shoulders, a gesture he could safely make while still keeping his fingers touching the smaller man's chin. "I guess you could say I'm bi. I've had male and female partners, but I just don't talk about the guy ones to most people."
"'Cause you're a cop?"
"Among other things."
"Oh." The doctor swallowed. "I... I think I'm ready to do more than just think about it... if you're interested, I mean."
Of their own volition, Steve's fingers traveled from Jesse's chin to the younger man's cheek, knuckles tenderly stroking the smoothly shaven skin. "Jess, are you sure? You're not just saying that to humor me?"
Dazed, Jesse leaned into the caress. "No....I mean, yes." Blue eyes popped open as he realized he was jumbling his words. The doctor took a steadying deep breath and grabbed Steve's wrist as the older man started to pull away. "I mean, no, I'm not just humoring you." He lifted the larger man's hand to his lips. "I mean, yes, I'm sure." Then he placed a kiss on Steve's palm, just to be sure the detective was getting the right message.
Steve ran a thumb over Jesse's lips, wanting desperately to taste them, but needing to make sure that his potential mate knew what he was getting into. "Jess, I want this..you... but not just for tonight. I don't just want to be your first male lover... I want to be your last lover. Period." The detective abruptly dropped his hands and stepped back. "I can't do casual relationships anymore, Jess. If we start this, I need to know that you're committed to making it work. I don't think I can handle being a fling. Not with you."
Jesse frowned, his body instinctively following the warmth of the bigger man's body as Steve retreated. "I don't play with people, Steve. You know me better than that."
"C'mon, Jess. You know how you throw yourself passionately into a new interest and then move on to a knew one when the passion wanes." The detective's smile was strained and brittle. "Remember your short-lived enthusiasm for car racing?"
An angry retort was on Jesse's lips, but he stopped short of saying anything. Although Steve's doubt hurt, he also remembered Amanda's words about how gun shy her friend was and knew that the older man was trying to protect himself from yet another broken heart. "You're talking about hobbies, Steve. Immaterial things, I can be a little fickle with, I admit. But not where it counts, with people. Remember Susan? I was committed to making that relationship work, but she broke it off with me, not the other way around."
It was Steve's turn to frown. "What about Susan? You two were almost married...."
Jesse blushed. "You know how I told everyone that she ran off to Oregon with a chiropractor? That wasn't exactly the truth."
Steve arched an eyebrow. "Oh?"
"The truth is... I said someone else's name during... um... an inappropriate moment."
Being a detective, Steve knew that wasn't all to the story. "An 'inappropriate moment?'"
"Yeah. It was during... uh... while she was licking my.... um.... let's just say I called out your name at a really awkward time."
Jesse blushed deeper and shrugged. "Yeah, your name. Susan said she could have forgiven me if I had called out another woman's name, but it squicked her out that I had *those* thoughts about you, that she always knew we were too close to be just friends. Susan couldn't take having a guy that had those kind of thoughts about other guys, even if I'd never done anything about the urges. So, she left."
Steve smiled, Jesse's admission having relieved several doubts he'd been having. "I always thought you did get over her awfully quickly."
"Yeah, well, given the circumstances, I couldn't exactly tell everybody why she left."
The detective wrapped his arm around Jesse, pulling the smaller man close. "My name, huh? You were thinking about me even then?"
Jesse relaxed into the embrace. "Yeah, I just didn't want to admit it. I wanted to love Susan, I really did. But sometimes wanting to love someone just isn't enough, no matter how hard you try." The doctor lifted his head to meet the older man's gaze. "Steve, I've never been with a guy before, so I can't promise that it's gonna work. But I will promise you that I'm not entering into anything lightly. I'm going to do everything I can to make this relationship last."
"I believe you, Jess," Steve dropped a kiss on Jesse's forehead, just basking for a moment in the younger man's conviction. "Can I ask one more question?" Seeing the other man's head nod an affirmative, he asked, "If you've thought about guys before, how come you haven't acted on it? I mean, with a body like yours, I'm sure finding a willing teacher wouldn't have been too hard."
"I'm a doctor, Steve, I know how the mechanics work. But, even though I don't have as much experience in the medical field as your dad does, I've worked in an emergency room long enough to have seen an eyeful. I know what can go wrong when two men have sex and I've never found anyone I trusted enough to take that chance." He stopped his explanation to whack the bigger man on the shoulder. "Besides, I don't just want a sex teacher. You're not the only one looking for forever, big guy."
Footsteps right outside their door reminded the detective that the two of them were not in their own private little world, no matter how it seemed at the moment. Giving Jesse a quick squeeze, he let go of the doctor and stepped back. "Forever means we have a long time to enjoy being together. How about we take this slow in the beginning and savor it?"
Jesse looked Steve up and down, his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth as he contemplated the other man's body. "If you insist...." He flashed his dimples at the other man in a smile, "but I'm not gonna promise anything...about taking things slow, that is."
"Thanks, babe," As their waiter came in with their dinner, Steve guided Jesse over to the table by putting a hand in the small of the doctor's back as they walked. To offset the sensations that feeling the cloth-covered muscles underneath his fingers ripple, he bent down to whisper into his new lover's ear, "There's only one thing about this whole set-up that bothers me."
When Jesse looked at him, he answered the question in the younger man's eyes. "Amanda's going to be insufferable when she finds out that she was right." ~the end~
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