Night Train to Paris


This strikes her as extremely gentlemanly, given the circumstances, but she's sure, oh, she's sure, and so she whispers, "I want to."

The last garments, the last fig leaves of modesty are stripped off, then an awkwardness of knees and elbows and what goes where, and the adjustment of two sets of proportions to each other--but it works.

It works, and the sensation is incredible. Filled, completed, surrendered, yet an equal partner in pleasure. Almost as soon as he is fully in her, she feels herself approaching her climax, that place filled almost solely with mindless ecstasy. Her hands are clenched on his biceps, his arms are under her, his hands holding on to her shoulders, they are locked together in almost every way. Every shudder of delight that passes through her, brings an answering shudder in him. Her legs lock around him and she locks around him elsewhere, in waves. Every time he thinks she must be done, she begins again, until finally she carries him with her. He could swear that his begins at the base of his spine. When she feels him explode inside of her, it triggers one last answer in her, and then they're both done, utterly spent, sweaty, panting, and completely satisfied.

When they're both slightly recovered, he kisses her deeply, then gently strokes her cheek. She smiles at him, feeling more connected than she imagined possible, and at the same time slightly shy. After all, she barely knows this man, and she just had not one, but several, head-banging orgasms with him--a bit dislocating.

"That was nice," she finally manages to whisper, and he smiles back at her.

"More than nice, I think." She nods, infinitesimally, and then it becomes clear that however sad it may be, they have to go back to being two separate people again...for at least a while.

They both deal with the necessities of afterwards as best as possible, and then she says, "Are you going to go sleep in your bunk?" This makes him laugh, and he says,

"Oh, you mean your place or mine?" and this sets her to giggling.

"Do you mind if I sleep here with you?" he asks her, gravely and politely.

"As long as you stay on the outside, it's fine," she tells him, and he finds her t-shirt for her to sleep in, and his own underwear, and so, in a simulacrum of domesticity, he climbs back into her bunk, and they settle themselves together for sleep.

The sweet feeling of a man's arms around her, combined with the rocking of the train, lulls her off. For his part, he's enjoying having her in his arms, and as he dozes off, too, marvels at all the turns of events that have brought him here, in this rackety train, with this woman sleeping with him, warm and soft and real, and completely unexpected.

They sleep, lightly and uneasily. Too much is new, too much has happened, on top of being shoehorned into a space barely big enough for one. In that strange hour before dawn, they make love again. This time it's slower, more exploratory, more tender. She can't imagine how she's going to look her friend in the eye after all of this; he can't imagine how he's going to deal with a silent hotel room, with nothing but French TV for company. Each wondering, they sleep again, this time near exhaustion (long, sleepless, sex-filled nights are easier when one is younger) until the conductor rattles the door and tells them they have to get up.

"Oh, my God," she groans. "I never thought a train bunk would be the bed I didn't want to get out of."

Matt asks if they have to.

"Of course we have to. They have to change the bunks back...we can't stay here, half-dressed, people get on and off the train--" She sighs, and shakes her head. "Dear God."

He says that he'll get dressed first and step out so that she can have some privacy, and he's as good as his word. Liz stands there, climbing into underwear, tights, the clothes that, she reflects, she put on yesterday afternoon in her tidy little north German house in Stade, before she met a tall dark stranger on a night train. She actually pinches herself to see if it's real. It is.

Once dressed, she steps out into the corridor. Matt is looking out the window at the French country-side. She touches his arm to let him know she's there. The look of happiness on his face as he turns toward her melts her heart. It seems to have been all right, then, what she did. She might not be the Arch Tramp of the Universe, at least not in his eyes.

"Good morning, darling," she says, surprised at how the words roll off her tongue, as though she's been greeting him this way for years.

"Good morning, sweetheart," he answers her, and kisses her lightly.

The conductor has arrived during this exchange, and gone inside the compartment for his housekeeping duties. He steps out and motions for them to step inside. The scene of the lust is gone. He knows everything, of course. Oh, well, they'll never see him again. Then he reappears, with a refreshment cart. That's not right, she thinks, the conductor doesn't do that. In very poor, very French-accented German, he tells her that the German conductor asked him to bring them breakfast, since he had a feeling they might need it after their night. He lifts a tray holding coffee, croissants, and all the trimmings, off the cart, and puts it down on the table. He winks, and leaves.

"What was that?" asks Matt. Liz is laughing as hard as she can.

When she can finally speak, she just tells him, "The world is on to us, and they don't care. Have some breakfast."

They take their time with breakfast. Matt says he wishes he had a newspaper, Liz tells him he can get a Herald-Tribune in Paris. The coffee is strong and hot, the croissants flaky--"This is pretty good," she says. She finds, to her relief and pleasure, that the morning after, often so complex, feels easy with him. They have three more hours to Paris, and they pass it reading their respective books (a German novel for her, a spy thriller for him), looking out the window, and with desultory chat. "Tell me again how long you're staying in Paris?" he says to her. She tells him that she was planning on going back on Monday morning. He nods reflectively.

"Stay another day." She looks at him quizzically. "Stay another day, at least, and spend it with me. Take the train home the next day."

"Where will I stay?"

"You can stay with me." She raises her eyebrows. "I'll get you your own room, if you think it's too soon to move in together," he grins at her.

She can't think of what to say. There's no real reason not to, but there's not really anything speaking for it, either. It seems to her that it's just lending itself to a great deal of uncomfortableness.

"I don't know," she finally says. "Give me your phone number at the hotel and I'll call you on Sunday night and tell you what I've decided."

He looks none too thrilled at this, but pulls out his itinerary, and gives her the name of his hotel and the number.

"How will you call?" he asks.

She looks at him as though he's gone crazy, and says, "With my cell phone. How else?"

"It works here?" he asks.

"I live here, remember?" she retorts, and then thinks, dear God, we might as well be married, listen to us. "Good point," he says, and then says,

"You'll really call?"

"Yes," she says shortly, and as that hangs in the air, "Yes, I'll really call."

They say very little until they finally reach the Gare du Nord. It's the end of the line for that train. The reverse of the night before...coats put on, covering the traces of the night, traveling companion better known than ever seemed possible, but much the same, in that questions still remains and possibilities are still open. As they pull into the station, Liz sees her friend on the platform, and wonders how she's going to act even remotely normal, while she tries to process all that's happened. She looks enviously at Matt, buttoned back into his trench, and looking as though he had slept soundly from Altona to Reims and with nothing to do but suit himself for the next however long. From now till Thanksgiving. She sighs deeply.

"What is it, sweetheart?" he asks her, which touches her heart.

"Tired," she says, and he grins.

He's ahead of her getting off the train, and he reaches for her bag for her, then helps her off, which she doesn't expect at all. Her friend has spotted her, and is making her way down the platform. Liz can't think of what to do, so she falls back on her favorite position when in doubt, formality. She holds out her hand to Matt and says,

"Well, Mr. Kuhn, it was a pleasure to meet you. I hope our paths cross again one day." He takes her hand and shakes it and says good-bye, his eyes inscrutable. Liz walks off with her friend.

"Who was that?" she asks, finally, when nothing is being volunteered. Before Liz can open her mouth, she hears running footsteps behind her. She ignores them; they get closer. She looks back, and it's Matt. When she turns, he stops and opens his arms wide to her, looking imploring. She hesitates, biting her lip, then goes to him. He wraps her in his arms and they kiss, much to the approval of passing Parisians. When they finally stop, he says,

"Will you call me now?"

"Yes," she sighs, "Yes, I'll call you, darling. I'll call." And then she does walk off down the platform.

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