tagRomanceSingles Awareness Day

Singles Awareness Day

bybumpercars©

Eric knocked on the frame of Sofia's door. It was open, but he waited for her to look up and smile before he stepped in.

"Happy Singles Awareness Day," she said, gesturing theatrically at an upside-down Valentine's Day banner that had been creatively desecrated with a sharpie. "Because romance is silly."

He offered his fist, and she gave him a fist-bump complete with an explosive sound effect.

"Romance is silly," Eric agreed. He revealed a wilted brown rose he'd been concealing behind his back and presented it to Sofia. She laughed.

"How long have you been planning that for?" she asked.

"Not that long," he replied. "I mean, not longer than you've been planning this."

"Well thanks," she said graciously. She gestured at the couch, which she'd dragged into the center of the room to face a row of monitors.

"This is not your first LAN party, huh," Eric commented.

"Nope," Sofia answered, plopping down on the couch. "I'm like a third-generation dork, so I've been at this for a while. And you're the first one here so you get dibs on whichever seat you want."

Biting his lip, he approached the couch. "Who else is invited?"

"The rest of the nerd herd," she said. "Why?"

"Well," he continued, sitting on the far end, "I think Ron and Allison might not make it."

"Why not," she said, in a tone that meant she had her suspicions.

He sighed. "They can't make it here because they're busy making it with each other."

She rolled her eyes. "They had to do that during my party?"

He shrugged. "It is kind of on the nose, isn't it?"

"Unbearably," she agreed.

"Well at least Maisie and Li Jing will be here," he said. "They're both good at DPS, so it ought to..." he trailed off as he noticed Sofia staring at him and slowly shaking her head.

"They're studying," she declared.

"Why are they studying on Saturday?" Eric frowned.

"Because they wanted to study each other," she replied.

Eric frowned. "You mean with each other?"

"On each other," Sofia corrected. "Under each other. In each other? I don't know the right preposition, but Maisie clearly does."

"Oh," Eric said. "Well they make a cute-"

"No," Sofia interrupted. "I mean, yes. But, no. They're adorable, but they were supposed to be at my party. They had plenty of other days to find true love or whatever. And now we're short on players."

Eric glanced around the empty room, then back at Sofia. "Well, at least we have two people. I'm sorry the others didn't show, but if you want to tank, I'll be your support."

Sofia flashed her lopsided grin, and Eric's heart beat faster. "D'aww," she said. "You always know the right thing to say. Let's log in and get started." She scooted over next to him, leaving a bro-sized gap between them, and logged in.

--

"I just don't see why romance needs its own day," Sofia mused. Her character, a burly figure in powered armor, massacred its way through a horde of hapless attackers. "If you want to be all shmoopy with someone, wouldn't you want to do it every day?"

"I get you," Eric agreed. "It's setting up unrealistic expectations from the start." His character sprinted after her, trying to keep her health up. "You're not gonna have roses and champagne every day."

"Yeah," she concurred. "And, if you need an outside prompt to show affection in some silly way, then it's fake." Her character leapt over a crumbled stone wall and brought a hammer down on an enemy gunner.

"But, the flipside is that sometimes it gives people a nudge," Eric observed cautiously. "Like, I don't think Ron and Allison are faking it. And the atmosphere of pervasive shmoopiness might have made it easier for them to take the plunge."

"They would have gotten there eventually," Sofia said confidently. In the real world, she shook a lock of black hair out of her eye; in the game, she shattered a tower and sent a crowd of enemies flying in all directions. "They've been shy-flirting for like a month."

Eric swallowed, glad that the sound effects were loud enough to make it inaudible. "It's kinda surprising you don't like romance when you're so good at spotting it."

"They're not the same," she said. "Romance is the culturally expected bullshit. Affection is genuine. I'm glad my friends are getting there but I don't like the idea that today pushed them."

"Makes sense," Eric admitted.

"And..." she hesitated. "Sometimes people let romance get in the way of really caring about others. Like, guys do this thing where they act like your friend, until they hit on you and you aren't interested. And then you find out that they were never really your friend at all."

Eric nodded. "I've seen that," he said. "Girlfriend-zone."

"Yeah." She sighed. "Before I start a relationship, I'll need to know the friendship is real. And-" She stopped as her character was suddenly menaced by two hulking figures carrying enormous axes. "Shit." Her fingers danced as she spun her character, driving back the aggressors and buying herself a moment. "Shit shit shit!"

"I got you," Eric said smoothly. He threw his shield in front of her, deflecting the incoming blows just in time. With him healing her, she stepped forward and sent one opponent reeling. The second charged, and they stepped forward together to face the assault.

"Don't let him get away," Sofia instructed. Her character circled the axe-wielder, looking for an opportunity. It rushed at her and swung, knocking her character back. It roared, and Eric snapped off a shot at its face. Before it could regain its composure, Sofia brought down her hammer on its head.

"Whew," Sofia exhaled in relief.

Eric nodded as he winced slightly. Sofia glanced over at him, then slid closer.

"Are you okay IRL?"

"My shoulder again," he said, waving her off. "Sometimes it just gets tense. It's not a biggie."

"You've gotta take care of yourself if we're going to keep playing," she insisted. "LAN injuries are serious business. Here, let me rub your back."

He hesitated for a moment, then nodded and turned away from her. She scooted closer, and he took a deep breath.

"If you say so," he said, managing to keep his voice even.

"I do," she said.

Running her hands down his spine, she sought out the source of his tension. In truth she was easing one form of tension and causing another, but it was both comforting and exciting to feel her hands on him, working to make him feel better.

"Like I said, I have a lot of experience with extended gaming sessions," she said. "My parents let me do it more than they should've."

"I've done marathon sessions too, you know," he noted, trying to defend his nerd cred. "I played half of KOTOR in one day."

She made her voice sound deep and rasping. "You think dorkiness is your ally? You merely adopted the dork. I was born in it, molded by it."

He laughed. "All right, elder nerd."

She moved her hands up and focused her attention on his shoulder. Digging with her thumb, she rubbed at the knot in his muscle, and he had to bite his lip to keep from gasping.

"You know," she said, eventually, "In a way, I'm glad that no one else showed up today. I would have felt awkward doing this in front of people."

"Because it's Valentine's Day?"

"Kinda," she admitted. "And Maisie teases me because I think romance is bunk."

"That's not very nice."

"She's not mean about it. But, whenever I touch a boy she implies that I'm a ball of repressed desire."

Eric's heart raced. This was unfamiliar territory. A part of him wanted to steer the conversation back to video games or other people's romantic foolishness. But hope and honesty prevailed. Before he could second-guess himself, he took the plunge.

"I don't think you're repressed," he said.

She slowed her movements, perhaps to focus on a knot, perhaps because her own thoughts were straying. "What do you think?" she asked.

He considered his response. "I think you want things on your own terms," he replied. "You stomp on Valentine's Day because you don't like being told when to look for love."

She took a deep breath, and her hands froze. "But you don't think I'm afraid to go after relationships?"

He shook his head. Then, steeling himself, he turned towards her, gazing into her brown eyes. "No," he said. "I mean, if you don't want it that's okay. But if you do want it, I know you'll get it."

Sofia stared back. Try as he might, Eric couldn't decipher her expression; he could see hope and apprehension and kindness all tumbled up. She stood, and walked away from the couch. Sadness gripped him for a moment, until he realized that she was closing the door.

She smiled her adorable lopsided grin at him as she walked back to him. "You had to mention this today, did you?"

"Strictly for personal reasons," he maintained.

She sat cross-legged on the couch, facing him, closer than she'd been before. Their hearts were racing, but they were both doing their best to look calm.

"You really want to try being my support in the real world too?" she asked. "I'm complicated."

"So am I," he said. "But yes. I'd like to try, ah, being your support. And vice versa."

"I was kind of hoping you'd say something like this," she finally admitted.

Taking his hand, she squeezed gently, just touching for the sake of touching. He leaned forward, his eyes on hers. Her breath quickened, and she leaned in to kiss him. He was gentle, almost hesitant; she squeezed his hand in reassurance as she felt the warmth of his lips. They drew closer, their lips pressing together and driving away the space between their bodies. Every nerve was alight with heat, and they found themselves moving faster, to both of their surprise.

Abruptly, Eric slipped back, and had to catch himself on the arm of the couch. He and Sofia stared at each other, breathing heavily and trying to figure out where to go next.

Sofia smiled and wrinkled her nose. "Oh God," she whispered. "I hate to think what Maisie would say about this."

Eric returned her smile. "Then don't. Maisie is busy right now anyway."

"Alright," she agreed.

She scooted back a bit, and tapped the couch between them. Eric slid over, and Sofia threw herself at him, pushing him down onto the couch with a quiet thump. After a moment of shock he adjusted, putting his legs beneath her on the couch.

Finding his mouth with hers, she explored, her tongue gliding across his lips and diving into his mouth. He took a moment to decide where his hands belonged, then wrapped them around her shoulders. He could feel her muscles move as she adjusted her position. She was wiry, with too much muscle and too many opinions to be considered conventionally attractive, and he loved every bit of her.

She broke the kiss, lifting herself up, the tip of her nose hovering just above his. A veil of her curly hair fell around his face, leaving them in their own private world. Mesmerized, she stared into his eyes. The idea of getting lost in someone's eyes had always sounded like bunk, and it still did. She wasn't getting lost. She was falling, and he was catching her.

He smiled up at her. "In case you were worried," he said, "even people who don't celebrate Valentine's Day might find themselves engaging in amorous behavior on that day, strictly by coincidence."

She laughed. "Is that what this is?" she asked, kissing him. "Amorous behavior that's typical for our demographic?"

He shook his head. "I wouldn't describe you as typical," he said.

"I dunno," she said. Sitting up, she perched on his lap and ran her hands underneath his shirt. Tentatively, she skimmed her fingertips across his stomach. When he gasped, and she felt it as much as heard it. "I have the typical number of hands. And I...do share some interests with most girls."

He shook his head. "I don't think most girls are interested in me."

"Dunno what they're missing," she said, her hands moving up to his chest.

"Hmm," he groaned, momentarily unable to speak. "Ah. Well, whatever it is, they can keep missing it."

She pulled up his shirt, and he lifted himself enough to shed the unwanted garment and toss it aside. He rested his hands on her knees and stared up at her, watching as she studied him. Like her, he was skinny, but pale, with soft hair on his chest that stopped at the bottom of his sternum and reappeared just above his jeans. She could already tell he was excited and trying to keep himself under control, but now she could see it in new ways, in the movements of a hundred muscles she'd never seen before.

He reached to her waist, his hands sliding beneath her shirt and settling just above her hips. As he drew her closer, she resisted the pull just long enough to reach down and pull her shirt up and away. He stopped pulling, his eyes desperately trying to drink in the moment. Her light brown skin was perfect and her wavy hair cascaded to just below the level of her shoulders. An old black bra, which she wouldn't have chosen if she'd known anyone would see it, covered her small breasts. He looked at them, and at a hundred little things that she hadn't expected him to care about - the curve of her shoulder, the lines of her neck, the dimple of her bellybutton and the rise and fall of her chest.

"I'm really tempted to say something that could be construed as romantic," he confided.

"Well," she replied, "You'll have to hold that thought until tomorrow."

"Ah," he said, smiling puckishly. "What else should I hold until tomorrow?"

She smiled, and lay down on top of him, reveling in the sensation of her skin on his. "Well," she paused to, kiss him quickly but deeply, "Maybe you could hold your tongue for a minute."

He returned her kiss, his hands winding their way to her shoulder and head, pulling her close. She drank him in, her tongue dancing across his lips and meeting his, the exquisite sensation drawing them together. Without knowing when, she put her arms beneath his shoulders and firmly straddled his body. Gasping, he broke the kiss and momentarily stared at her with wonder.

"Sorry," he murmured with the ghost of a smile. "You were saying something about holding my tongue."

"Mm-hmm," she smiled. "You're very witty. Now kiss me some more."

As he coaxed her back to his lips, she closed her eyes, overwhelmed by the sensation. Internally she giggled at the irony. She'd thrown a party to snub Valentine's Day, and now she was making out with the only attendee. But, if she was being honest with herself, this had nothing to do with the day, and everything to do with him. She might've done the same thing if he'd been over yesterday; for the longest while, she'd been crushing on him, but afraid to act.

Eric crossed his arms behind Sofia's back, embracing her tightly. This was not even remotely what he'd expected to encounter at this party. But then, it was also more than he'd hoped for. Maybe other couples needed a nudge in the right direction, and that was fine. Sofia found her own way. Her kisses were intense, almost more than he could keep up with, but he was determined to try. He wanted all of her.

She paused to take a deep breath, and they locked eyes again. His hands roamed up and down her back, settling on her bra strap. "Um," he said. "Would it be okay if I made a dexterity check?"

Sofia glanced down at her breasts in the plain black bra, then back at him. "Do you want to?"

Eric nodded.

"Alright," she said. She lowered herself again, and he reached for the catch.

"They're...not that big," she said shyly.

"They're yours," he replied, drawing a smile from her. After fumbling with the hooks, he frowned when they failed to open. "Though maybe I need to take 20 on that check."

"It's alright," she chuckled. "You're not being threatened."

He smiled back at her. A moment later, he popped the hooks, and her bra came loose. She sat up and let it slide onto the floor. He gazed at her, desire and awe on his face, and she basked in his attention.

Slowly, he moved his hands across her back and around to her hips. She briefly stiffened, and he paused. This was more intimacy than she was accustomed to, and for a moment it was overwhelming. But he waited, his hands still, and his eyes on her expression.

Every single time she fell, Eric was there to catch her. She wanted to keep falling. She wanted to share herself with him.

"Yes," she said in a hushed tone.

He nodded, then slid his hands up towards her breasts. While she knew what was coming, it still made her gasp. As he ran his fingers around the periphery of her breasts, she closed her eyes and allowed his touch to flood her senses. He gently placed a hand over her right breast, his palm on the bottom and his fingers spread just enough to reach the top. She opened her eyes and glanced down at him.

"See," he said, "they're just the right size."

She exhaled slowly. "I think you're being romantic again."

"No," he shook his head. "I didn't mean to, so it doesn't count." Shifting his hand, he ran his thumb around her nipple.

"Hmmm-" she mumbled. "I'm - oh - not sure it works that way."

"Well, I apologize for succumbing to cultural pressure," he said, gently caressing her breasts.

"I'll let it slide," she replied.

"I'm glad." She leaned down to kiss him, savoring the warmth and closeness as she pressed herself against his comforting frame. None of the Valentine's Day traditions involved topless makeouts, she reminded herself, although most of them included the possibility. This was just between the two of them; it didn't matter what the rest of the world thought. Although, she hoped Maisie wouldn't find out what day she and Eric had started kissing.

She shifted and kissed his cheek, enjoying the heat of his breath. Then, slowly, she kissed her way along his jaw, as her nipples slid across his bare chest. Reaching his ear, she nibbled, sucking his earlobe into her mouth. She felt a moment of doubt about whether her technique was strange, but Eric moaned into her ear and her worries vanished. She kissed him again and traced the curve of his ear with her tongue.

"I'm glad you like that," she said, pausing to look up at him.

"Yes," he said, and he tried not to blush. "Could we move a bit? I'm, uh..."

Sofia realized that the pressure on her thigh was not, in fact, the contents of Eric's pockets. "Oh," she said.

"Sorry if I-"

"No," she cut in, caressing his face. "If I shouldn't be ashamed of my boobs, then you shouldn't be ashamed of...being a guy." She rose up and watched him adjust. Now that she was paying attention, his excitement was clearly visible through his jeans.

"Can I touch it?" she asked impulsively, before she could second-guess herself.

He blushed even more deeply. "I'd like that," he said, and unzipped his pants. He pushed his pants and boxers down far enough to reveal his cock. Sofia hadn't imagined the details of how it would look, but she was happy to fill in the gaps. She wrapped her hand around his girth, marveling at the way he stiffened at her touch, and at the contrast between the softness of his skin and the hardness beneath.

"I don't usually do this on first dates," Sofia admitted, gently stroking his skin back and forth. "Not that I've had a lot of first dates or done much of this."

"This isn't a date," he said, his voice a bit uneven. "Dates are...cultural constructs, with expectations and rules. This is just...you and me...seeing what it's like to be us."

She beamed. "I like this," she said. "Would you..." she hesitated, while glancing around the room. "Come to the bed?"

"Sure," he said. He tossed the remains of his clothes aside and took her hand. She squeezed tightly, and they walked to her bed. She patted the comforter, and he lay down, looking up at her with vulnerability but also barely contained eagerness.

She took a deep breath, then unzipped her pants. Kicking off her shoes, she shed the rest of her clothes and stood naked at the edge of the bed. She studied Eric. She couldn't decide what was more exciting, his lean body or his expression as he looked back at her.

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