Based on Cirocco Jones's point of view, Rey Curtis' life has not been going well since he left the 27th Precinct. This is a 'what if' type of story that starts with known canon and postulates events beyond that. The author told us that Burden is a companion piece to one over at


By Cirocco Jones

"Damn." Rey Curtis put down the file he was working on, unable to concentrate. Another stupid budget form. He looked at the clock. 3:14 p.m. Too early to get out without an excuse, even on a Friday. Besides, the budget form was due two days ago.
He leaned his head back, trying to get the kink out of his neck. He hated this time, the last hours of the day, when he was torn between wishing the day of meaningless paperwork was over and wishing that he didn't have to go home. Home, to drudgery and frustration and noise. At least work was quiet - boring, repetitious and soul-killing, but quiet. Nobody bothering him, nobody demanding anything, no guilt or anger or recriminations.
Home, to a wife and family that exhausted him. Endless work and worry, taking care of five people, two of them disabled. Deborah, with her sadness and physical deterioration. She was in a wheelchair now, MS ravaging her until she was unable to do the simplest things for herself. Tania, his youngest daughter, with her babble, her demands, her illnesses, her need for constant supervision. Tania, who was brain damaged because Deborah was on medication when Tania was conceived by accident. The doctors had told them to abort but they couldn't, and they loved her but she was breaking them.
Then there was Serena, his second daughter... oh god, best not think about Serena. Serena with her sullenness, her bitterness, her rage, her troubles at school, her run-ins with the law. And even Olivia and Isabel, his good girls, trying so hard to help and being so easy to neglect, until something reminded him that they were little girls who needed so much more than he could possibly give.
He ran through his mental To Do list. Running low on milk, better get the powdered stuff again. Olivia needed new clothes... maybe he could take them all to the secondhand store this weekend. Not that she had asked for new clothes, but he could see her ankles and wrists growing past her pant legs and sleeves. She must have gone through a growth spurt, and he hadn't noticed. Medication for Deborah and Tania - no, that had to be put off till payday, or they'd be bouncing checks again. Deborah could go a couple of days without - not that the drugs did her any good anyway.
He looked at the clock again. 3:22 p.m.
The problem wasn't the endless amount of stuff he had to do at home or at work. The problem was that this was the last Friday of the month, and he was once again torn between anticipation and dread. Not for the first time, he wished his sister had never offered to take care of his family every last Friday of the month so that he could have some time to himself. He had appreciated it at the time, but now it was just another source of endless guilt.
At first, he'd been grateful for the chance to get out of the house and just be by himself, no stroller, no wheelchair, no herd of children to dog his every step. He had wandered around, gone into a bookstore, disoriented by the freedom. He'd returned home with a clearer head and a better outlook on life.
The next month he'd spent his time in Central Park, walking and enjoying the sights and sounds of New York on a Friday night. The next time he'd gone some place else - sidewalk market and coffee shop or something.
Then he'd gone to a bar. A bar that he and Deborah had gone to when they were students, a dance bar. He'd had a beer and looked at the people dancing, remembering when he and Deborah had gone out together and been part of that crowd. He remembered the feel of her body next to his, how gracefully she moved, how her eyes sparkled at him, and how they had always finished the evening by hurrying home and tumbling into bed, fired up from the sensuality of the dance bar, her slim, athletic body just as passionate, just as graceful in intimacy as on the dance floor. Before the kids, they often didn't even make it to the bed, tearing each other's clothes off right inside the door.
He had finished his beer and remained on the bar stool, his throat aching with grief knowing that Deborah would never dance again. That his beautiful strong wife, who loved movement so much, was tied to a wheelchair. Forever. No longer able even to walk, let alone hold him and make him feel music through her body.
He had stood up to leave the bar. Suddenly a young woman was standing next to him, leaning in close. "You just warm a barstool or do you move too, handsome?" she'd asked, smiling at him. Startled, he had stared at her for a moment before something clicked inside him and he decided, what the hell. He followed her to the dance floor.
Now, staring at the clock, he wished with all his heart that he hadn't gone into that bar. That he hadn't taken her up on her offer. And that when she had started to touch him, letting him know that she was interested in more than a casual turn on the dance floor, that he had just walked away.
3:41 p.m. Still too early to go.
He put his head down and tried to concentrate on something else, anything else but what he would probably be doing tonight, what he had done nearly every last Friday of the month since that night.
Don't think. Don't think about the last time you went out and went home with that girl, the one who screamed and clawed at you, marking your back, who laughed when her roommate pounded on the wall and yelled Enough already Eliana, can't you fuck quiet for once. Don't think about the next two days spent in church, confessing to Father Morelli and saying Hail Mary's and Our Father's and feeling dirty and weak and yet so relieved.
Finally. 4:14. Early, but some of the other people in his department were leaving. Thank god. He packed up his files, shut down the computer, and went to get the girls from their babysitter.

Relax. Have a beer. You're just here to enjoy the music and the atmosphere.
Yeah. Right. That's why you have a couple of condoms in your pocket. For the music and the atmosphere.
No, it's because if anything happens, you can't afford to risk getting sick.
And because you're not strong enough not to let anything happen tonight.
Dammit. Another beer. Another beer to take away thoughts of guilt, of self recrimination. Time enough for that tomorrow.
Young woman approaching. Short curly dark hair. Mid-twenties. Early thirties? Slim, good body. He averted his eyes. What the hell was wrong with him? Everything felt overly sensitized, like every female in the place was a possibility.
No, no, no. Remember how this feels the next day. Remember Deborah.
Deborah, at home, in her chair, sad eyes, quiet. Deborah, who used to run and laugh and make him laugh too, who used to touch him and smile when he touched her. Who would take control so quickly it made his head spin, when she decided she wanted him. Who used to want him.
The last time they had tried to make love, he had been so miserable afterwards he had never suggested it again. He was on fire for her, he needed her so much... and she was uneasy, uncomfortable, completely unaroused. They had tried, she had tried, but in the end he had hurt her despite all his efforts to be gentle. She had tried not to let him know how much he hurt her, but he knew. And he tried to hold her, to comfort her, but she didn't relax until he let her go. And now, now she didn't even want him to touch her. She drew away as if he was repulsive to her. He knew it wasn't that, it was that MS caused pain, destroyed arousal and made sex next to impossible, but it didn't help.
Another beer. Another beer to take away the despair of knowing that the one woman he really wanted, he couldn't have. His own wife. To forget how much he had hurt her.
Another woman, ponytail swinging as she walked. Breasts heaving under her shirt, she was breathless from a turn on the dance floor. He looked away quickly before the erection he was getting became uncomfortable.
Suddenly, another woman. Red dress, jewelry flashing. Dark eyes looking up at him.
"This seat taken?" Spanish, Cuban accent.
"No, go ahead."
"Waiting for somebody?"
"Nope. You?" He saw her glance at his wedding band. She raised her eyebrows in silent question: married? He looked back at her directly - yes. Is that a problem? She laughed and nodded at his beer.
"What are you having?"
"Just asked for whatever was on tap. Want one?"
"Sure," he signaled to the bartender.
"Rita," she held out her hand.
"Rey," he took her hand, electric shock coursing through him. He tried to keep his tone casual. The beers arrived, and they drank, appraising each other frankly.
"So do you just sit and drink or do you dance too, Rey?"
"Depends on who's asking. If it's you, then sure." She smiled a little wider and nodded towards his beer.
"Finish up."
They headed for the dance floor. Rey relaxed. This, he could do. This, he was very good at. Feeling the music, moving with a partner, giving her a good time - this was easy. The rest of his life, the kids and the job and the marriage, that was all failure and heartache. This at least was escape. He put the rest of his life out of his mind - that wasn't his responsibility right now. None of it existed.
They found the beat, and he smiled as the girl (Rita? Anita? What the hell was her name again?) grinned up at him. Always the same reaction, pleased surprise that he could dance. Most men seemed to have two left feet, although from what he'd seen it wasn't nearly as bad at Latino bars as it was at other places. White men seemed to be allergic to rhythm, as though there was something unmanly about any kind of movement that wasn't football or baseball. But even at Latino bars, men who could move with grace and ease were scarce. He moved closer to the girl, mixing the steps more intricately and pleased that she could follow. Spinning her around, swaying and catching at her waist, her hand. She murmured something into his ear.
"Not bad, honey. Not bad at all."
She smiled up at him from under her eyelashes. Come-hither look. Shock to the system, he missed a step. Suddenly it wasn't about the dance any more, her eyes were promising a whole lot more. All the repressed desire of the month was screaming for release. His whole body was awake and hungry. He looked away, trying to remember his promise to himself. Not tonight. For one night, don't. Come home without feeling dirty, without feeling weak. For once, come home to Deborah without guilt.
The girl laughed, an inviting sound, and brushed her breasts up against him as she moved with the rhythm. He felt his breath come out in a gasp.
Oh god it's been so long so long so long I want to so much so much -
He tried to remember Deborah's face as he left the apartment. Have fun Rey, she'd said. He tried to steady his breath, remind himself that he was married and almost forty, not a teenager hoping to lose his virginity but a father of four, a police officer, a practicing Catholic.
The girl moved closer, and without even realizing it he was moving closer too. Now their thighs were brushing against each other, hips coming into contact too. He felt himself getting hard again, not that it had really subsided before but now, now he couldn't think of anything else.
No no no no no... I can't. I can't do this. I'll feel like dying tomorrow.
Oh god. He was gazing down at the girl, her face smiling up at his the way Deborah never did any more, her eyes wide and sultry, wanting him. He felt dizzy. This beautiful girl, wanting him, moving closer to him. He bent forward, slowly coming closer to her mouth, giving her time to move away if she wanted to. Part of him hoping she would move away. She raised herself up, and their lips met.
Oh god oh god it's been so long and I can't stop.
His lips parted and he drew her closer. The feel of her, the feeling of soft breasts pressed to his chest, another body pressing up against his hardness, human contact. After nothing but his own hand and fantasies, a woman. He breathed in the scent of her perfume, her hair. Her tongue, warm against his. She tasted like beer, like excitement and life.
Oh god oh god, he felt like he was drowning. Drowning in her scent, her heat, her movements, the music, his own body's desperate need. He gripped her tighter, feeling desire spiking through him. She laughed, backed off a bit.
"Rey, Rey, relax. We've got a while. Another beer?"
His body protested, screaming in frustration, but he wasn't twelve. Lady says relax, you relax. Rules of the game. You don't push this or you fuck it up. Besides, this was a little too hot for the dance floor. "Sure. You?"
"Sure." They approached the bar, she getting a beer and he a glass of water. How many beers had he had so far? Three? Four? In less than half an hour. Not good, he wasn't used to drinking any more, he'd better slow down.
"So, what do you do?" she asked, mere formality. Not really interested, just wanting to give him time to cool down.
"Nothing exciting. Office stuff. You?"
"Oooh, white collar man. I'm a waitress."
"Yeah, where?"
"Restaurant." She put her hand on his arm, playing coy. He smiled back at her.
"You done that beer?"
"Depends. You gonna dance or try to take me on the dance floor?"
Rey snickered. "Depends. Do you want me to try to take you on the dance floor?"
"Not tonight. That we could do... somewhere more private."
"Hey, you wanna dance, I'm OK with that. We can take our time." He leaned closer. "Or we could go somewhere more private."
She raised her eyebrows. "Well I'm not ready for that yet," she laughed.
"I am. I can wait though." Rey was aware that his voice was rough with need, but tried to downplay it and took a sip of water.
The girl looked at him, toying with her glass. She suddenly reached up and whispered in his ear, "So what, the wife not giving you any? That why your friend here," she nodded down at his groin, "is trying to move this party along a little faster?"
"Something like that," he said. "My wife and I are separated." White lie, but close enough to the truth.
"Well, I want to stay here for a bit." She remained with her face close to his, stroking his arm and making the hairs stand up along his whole body.
"I told you, I have no problem with that," Rey grinned at her. She grinned back mischievously.
"Your friend does," she said playfully, running her hand down his arm, to his waist.
"He doesn't call the shots." She snickered, and the hand near his waist moved to his groin. He jerked, feeling a jolt of electricity and hardening painfully again. "Hey, you said you wanted to slow down. That's not helping," he said breathlessly. Room spinning. Everything too loud. Hand on him, want want want need need need.
"Maybe you need a bit of relief." She stroked him lightly, and he felt himself tremble in anticipation. She stroked a little harder, chuckling, sure of her power over him.
"Hey, come on. You wanna slow down, you hit the brakes, not the gas." No no no no, this is too good too good oh god oh god.
"How about a deal?"
"What?" He couldn't concentrate while she caressed him, so he caught her hand.
"A deal. I help you out, you give me one more dance and then come home with me."
"Where's the downside of this deal, for me?"
She tilted her head and licked her lips. "Does every deal have to have a downside?" she teased. "C'mere." She drew him to the corner of the bar, close to a post. In the crowded bar, it was a fairly quiet spot.
"Oops, I dropped my purse." She ducked down under the bar. He looked down, then froze. She was kneeling under the bar, reaching up for him. He felt his eyes widen and his heart skip a beat as she reached up for his belt and started to work on it. She tugged at his hips a bit to get him to move closer to the bar while she knelt between his legs.
Oh my god. This can't be happening. He glanced around, but nobody at the bar seemed to have noticed the girl's disappearance, and as far as he could tell nobody would be able to see her unless they happened to be looking down under the bar. He felt her hands reaching in, nails scraping against him. He felt his thighs quivering, stomach clenching, breath catching. Suddenly, heat and wetness. Her lips and tongue, moving against him. Engulfing him, arousal so complete and sudden, it blotted everything out.
Oh god. So hard, so ready to come right now. Not here, not at a bar, oh god, this is wrong, this is wrong, this is sooo right. He covered his mouth with his hands, looking down at the bar to hide his expression. Oh god. Bit his hand, stifling his need to cry out. Oh god. Her tongue stroking, lips moving, his own hips moving involuntarily and pressure so good and so sweet and there it was, there was the rising tide of ecstasy that blotted out everything else, the pain and the guilt gone and the bar and everything gone just nothing left but this feeling so intense and so powerful and
Oh. OH. Explosion of pleasure. OH. Bit his hand harder, eyes squeezed shut. Felt the sound coming from his throat anyway, muffled against his hand, tension draining, legs quivering, body shaking in the aftershock. Not that different from jerking off at home in the shower, stifling his cry so the girls wouldn't hear. More powerful, though, so much more intense, forbidden and wrong, but such a relief, brought to orgasm by another person, not a fantasy.
He leaned against the bar, shaking, catching his breath. He was vaguely aware of the girl licking up all traces of his climax, tucking him back in, doing up his fly and his belt. He collapsed onto a bar stool. He felt her coming out from under the bar, seating herself next to him again. She said something.
"So, you want another dance?" she said impishly. He looked up at her, amazed.
"Are you crazy? After that?" his voice was hoarse.
"We had a deal..." she reminded him.
"Well, yeah, but I can't dance if I can't walk yet. Gimme a few minutes." The girl threw back her head and laughed merrily. She leaned in and kissed him, and he shivered.
Don't think don't think about what just happened. Blow job at a bar, from a stranger. Don't think about it. Time enough for shame tomorrow.
He finished the water, choking a little and trying to steady his breathing. The girl nodded at him, smiling and leading him back to the dance floor.
Much better this time, the tension subsided a bit. Not so difficult to think of the girl, of the music, of enjoying the moment instead of hoping for and dreading what would come next. The alcohol made it a little harder to balance, which was good because then his whole mind could just concentrate on the movement instead of thinking about anything else.
Girl laughing, rubbing herself against him, prodding him into hardness again, but this time not so urgent. She was teasing - well, two could play that game. He moved his hand down to her waist, slowly caressing and moving closer so that their legs were intertwined, thighs melded together, letting her feel his arousal again. The other hand moving up her back, into her hair, caressing her neck. Her pupils dilated and he took note - amazing how the neck, the back of the neck, was a turn-on for so many women. Deborah - he closed his eyes, deliberately not thinking of Deborah. He leaned forward to brush his cheek against hers, breathing softly near her ear, and felt her body tense, her arms drawing him in closer. Drew his hand from the back of her neck to her face, lips, throat, down between her breasts, brushing past a nipple on the way down. Felt her catch her breath, nipple hardening, pressing herself closer to him.
"So... another dance, or do we go someplace more private?" he whispered in her ear.
"How far away is your place?" she whispered back.
"Too far. Three bus rides. Yours?"
"Three blocks," she giggled.
"We don't have to, you know." His conscience desperately trying to save him from the aftermath tomorrow. "We can stay here if you want."
"No, I've had enough," she was breathless. He felt a surge of desire, ignited knowing that he had put that catch in her voice, that she wanted him. That he could have her, that he probably would soon. No lonely furtive fumbling in the dark, no vivid dream at night that left him hungry for more the next morning.
They separated for a few minutes, visiting the washrooms, and met up again at the door to the bar. Confused kaleidoscope of streets, apartment buildings, people wandering about, her hand in his, walking quickly to her place. Up the stairs, stumbling a bit, both of them now impatient with anticipation. Open the door, slam it closed it behind them, her mouth on his. Oh god. Here we go. She rubbed herself against him and moaned, touching him again through his jeans. He sensed the walk had distracted her a bit, and smiled, knowing how he wanted to focus her again. No point in just getting off, he could do that by himself any time. If he was going to be confessing tomorrow anyway, he may as well feel he'd done something right.
He reached for her hand and gently drew it away from himself. Spotting a couch, he walked them back to it, collapsing on it and drawing her down. She looked at him inquiringly.
"You want me to return the favor? From the bar?" he whispered into her neck. She arched into him, gasping, nodding. He pushed her down, laying her back on the couch. He moved to cover her, reveling in her movements, her need. He unbuttoned her top, reaching in to caress her through her bra. She whimpered, then said, "Hang on, hang on," and moved to get off the couch.
"What's wrong?"
"Nothing, nothing, I just want to make sure my roommate didn't take the last condom."
"No problem," Rey reached into his back pocket and took out the two he'd stashed there. "Always prepared."
The girl laughed, "What a gentleman." He tossed the condoms onto the coffee table.
Suddenly, knocking at the door. The girl groaned. "WHAT??!! Who is it??"
"It's me," woman's voice, in English. "I forgot my key. Lemme in."
"Stacey, go away," the girl switched to heavily accented English. "Got company, ya know? Go see Eduardo or something, like you was supposed to."
"When you gonna be done?" Rey and the girl chuckled together, as he ran his lips down her neck and into her open top, unhooking her bra.
"I don't know. Ay!" she exclaimed, as Rey tongued her nipple, teasing, breaking her concentration. "Vayase!" in breathless Spanish.
"Speak American, you stupid spic!"
"Spanish is American, you dumb wop," the girl said, trying not to gasp out loud as Rey ran his hand up under her skirt. "Go away!!"
"Fine. I'll be back in two hours. You owe me." Steps receding.
"She's a bitch, but she helps pay the rent," the girl explained, back to Spanish. Rey nodded, moving down her front. He tugged at her underwear, and she lifted her hips, allowing him to draw them down and off. He caressed her gently, waiting until she pressed up against him before stroking harder. She was already aroused, and he felt himself getting painfully hard as she whimpered. He reached down to undo his belt and fly to relieve some of the pressure, moving his mouth down to her belly and then to her thighs. She quivered, then threw her head back as he settled between her legs. He paused, letting her anticipate for a moment, then kissed her. She jolted, and he could feel her gasping. He went to work, enjoying her reactions and her excitement, becoming more and more excited himself. Nothing else but the scent and taste of her, nothing else in his world, just sweet oblivion and escape. No guilt. No nothing, just this woman responding to him, life and sex and pleasure.
She was moaning continuously now, head moving back and forth on the couch cushion and whispering ohgodohgodohgodohgod without really knowing what she was saying. He murmured "Ready?" and was rewarded by her hands gripping his shoulders and pulling him up hungrily. He gasped as she worked his jeans down his thighs a bit and grasped him, and he reached for the coffee table. She grabbed the condom from his hand, unwrapping it with shaking fingers. He closed his eyes as she rolled it on to him, and cried out as she guided him into her.
Oh sweet Jesus. This was why he looked forward to these Fridays. This was worth any shame, any remorse. Melting into another person, a woman who wanted him, who trembled for him, who made him feel like a man, powerful, desirable, not just a failure as a husband and father and cop. A woman who would feel pleasure because of him and bring him pleasure too. Reduced to nothing but bodies grasping and gasping and reaching for completion. Reaching for the closest thing to heaven on earth.
Her movements became more urgent, frenzied, her head tossing back and chest heaving, her thighs gripping his own. Then he felt her contract and grip him so hard it was painful. Her mouth opened, and she keened, a high, wild sound that sent him over the edge. He heard his own voice cry out, no need to stifle this time, as wave after wave of ecstasy washed over him and light burst around him and his body shook, emptying itself, muscles contracting.
He collapsed on top of her, chest heaving. She was still moving her head slowly back and forth, hands wandering over his shoulders and back. Deborah used to do that too, moving aimlessly after sex, slowly calming down as the high wore off.
Oh god. Deborah.
Oh no, no, not yet. God, he couldn't go there yet. Please, just a few more hours. Don't let this end yet. He raised himself off the girl on trembling arms, still feeling the aftershock. He held the condom in place and pulled out, sitting up. She made a soft noise of protest, but didn't stop him.
"Where's the washroom?" The girl pointed. He rose, going in and disposing of the condom in the trash, washing up. He caught a glimpse of his face in the mirror, turning away before he could see the guilt and sorrow. Don't think, don't think, don't think. Don't feel. Just be.
He returned to the living room, where the girl was sitting up and stretching like a cat. She gave him a luminous smile and crooked her finger at him, drawing him back to the couch.
"So you got someplace you gotta be right away, or do you wanna stay for a while?"
"I can't stay too long, but yeah, I'm free for a couple hours," he said lightly.
"Oh good. Cigarette?"
"I don't smoke. You go ahead though."
"What if it's not tobacco? Still don't smoke?"
He looked at her. Indecision. He'd had grass a few times, his inflexible anti-drug moral code worn down like everything else by the last few years, and he'd found it took him away. Away from thoughts and introspection. Sounded perfect for tonight, when the guilt was edging at him already, the shame starting to gnaw even as the endorphin rush of sex dissipated. And yet...
"What, you a cop or something? You don't inhale?"
He gave a short bark of laughter. "No, I'm not a cop." Funny how easy the lie was. Not really a lie any more - technically he was still on the force, but years behind a desk had distanced him from the career he had once loved. What the hell. "Yeah, I'll have some. You sharing?"
"Yeah, the one other thing my roomie's good for. Boyfriend grows the stuff in his basement, so she's always got plenty." She reached into a cabinet door under the coffee table, taking out a box of pre-rolled joints and a lighter. She lit one and inhaled deeply, then passed it to Rey. He took it and breathed in, feeling the unpleasant burning in his lungs, the need to cough. He held his breath for a few moments, counting, then slowly exhaled. Man, this stuff was disgusting.
The girl grinned at him, nodding her head at his expression. "Not a fan of the taste, yeah?" she got up and went to the fridge. Took out a couple of beers. "Here, wash it down." He downed the beer gratefully, washing out the taste between tokes. He was starting to feel a bit sick, but at least he wasn't thinking. Just appreciating this woman's nearness, her smile, her touches, the feeling of no tension, the pleasant buzz of the beer.
She started to kiss him again, not that there was anything sexual about it but it was pleasant. He probably couldn't get hard again for at least another half hour or more, but no law said that necking couldn't be nice without anything more coming from it. He kissed her back, tasting beer and grass. Warm, inviting. Nice.
She lit another one, and they shared it between slow kisses and touches. Somehow his shirt was off, her dress hanging open, he supposed he'd undone all the buttons. He drew it off her shoulders, and she wriggled out of it, kicking off her shoes as well. She tugged at his pants, and then they were off along with his shoes and socks, and he didn't know quite how that had happened. Bare bodies, pressed together on the couch, leisurely exploration, nothing urgent. Skin on skin, no feeling like it in the world. Hands wandering over him, lips and tongue appearing and disappearing everywhere without him being aware of how they got there. Time was starting to lose coherency - how nice. Disjointed images and sensations, the feel of her hair, her laughter, her eyes, her breasts and his mouth and hands exploring her body, soft sighs and murmurs. Laughter as her hair covered his face and he coughed. Ticklish spot behind his knee - he jumped and she giggled.
Another joint, another beer, everything soft and the scent of her and him, he was hard again but it wasn't a big deal, they could do it or not, he didn't care. The buzz was nice. Her hair was amazing, long curls, and he wound a curl around his finger while she licked her way down his stomach and between his legs. Closed eyes, he could feel his breath in his throat as the pleasant arousal slowly became more insistent, but still oh so slow motion, oh so wonderful... she was leaning over him, breasts pressing against his chest, then starting to work him into her again... somewhere a part of his mind was nagging him that there was something else he should be doing but this was so nice, so warm, and then he remembered and reached a hand out to the coffee table to snag the other condom.
"Jus 'sec." English? Spanish? Didn't even know what language was coming out of his mouth any more, didn't matter, they weren't really into conversation, not verbal anyway. Lifted her away long enough to work the condom on, then settled her back down with a sigh as she slid down over him.
Her eyes, half closed, lazy smile, he knew there was one on his face too. Pulling sensations, oh so slow, oh so sweet... they moved together slowly, slowly, slowly, all the time in the world. The wave coming for him again, slowly, no hurry, no need to rush, just ride the tide of sensation and feel it rising, reaching up and up and the sound of her voice, throaty moans, and his, laughing, groaning, their breath coming together and then the wave was over him and over him and every nerve was alive and it had to come from God because there was no other source for this kind of feeling.
Slow relaxation, feeling her collapsing onto his chest, her leg dangling down off the couch, hair on his face again. Again something in the back of his mind, telling him to take care of something... oh the damn condom again. What a nuisance. He nestled against her, reluctant to pull out. Mind wandering for a second - a second? Until he felt himself softening. Time dilation: side effect of marijuana. Proper condom usage: pull out while you're still at least a bit hard or the condom might leak and then it's not much better than nothing.
What weird factoids to have floating around his head post-sex. Oh right. The condom.
With effort, he reached down. She sighed, nestling into his neck again as he removed the condom and tied it off, dropping it on the floor. Better remember to throw it out or the roommate would be pretty disgusted, with good reason. He felt a giggle rising in his throat, imagining the roommate stepping on a used condom. The girl raised her head and looked at him, but he shook his head, it would take too long to explain.
They lay there for a long time, time having no meaning, hands wandering, and then he started to feel ill. Deborah. Oh my god, Deborah. He felt a sob in his chest, clamped down. This was the worst time. When the sex was done, when the endorphin high was fading, and the guilt started to gnaw at him. What the hell was he doing here, with this woman, whatever her name was, who could make him come but couldn't give him the feeling of serenity and peace that Deborah had. Not without drugs, anyway. This woman... this woman had left him feeling guilty, disgusted with himself. He felt anger at her, clamped that down too. That wasn't fair - she got what she wanted, he got what he wanted. What he thought he wanted. She used him, he used her. And she wasn't even married, she wasn't cheating on anybody, she wasn't doing anything wrong. Not like him.
He cleared his throat, moving his arm. She made an inquisitive sound and raised her face. He looked up at her, having trouble meeting her open smile.
"I uh... I have to go."
"Sure, hon," she said, stretching out. She sat up, taking her weight off of him. He got up, reaching for his clothing and quietly putting it on. His head was pounding. He finished dressing, stood up and walked to the door.
"Uh, thanks," he turned to the girl. She had gotten up, still naked, and accompanied him to the door.
"No problem, sweetie, anytime. Thank you," she stood on tiptoe, kissing him openly and to his shame he found himself leaning in and parting his lips and enjoying the feel of her tongue on his. He pulled away, feeling nauseated, and remembered something.
"Oh - the, the condom-" he began, and she patted his arm.
"Don't worry about it, I got it. Good night." She closed the door behind him.
He leaned his back against the door, fighting nausea. What now? He couldn't go home yet. He didn't want to - to walk back into shackles of need and hurt and disappointment and failure. He couldn't. And Deborah - how could he face her, again, and take care of her and not let her know what he had done.
He pushed off the door, stumbled down the stairs. Where the hell was he? A breeze cut through his T-shirt; not cold, but he didn't have much tolerance for wind any more. He looked around. Where to? What now?
Walk around. Don't give in to the despair. Walk. Don't think, you're too drunk and high to think. Just walk it off.
He walked for a while, blanking his mind. A woman and man strolled past him, laughing and holding hands. She giggled, he grabbed at her, she screamed with laughter and dodged away. He suddenly felt the nausea rise and realized there was nothing he could do about it, he was going to throw up. He stumbled to the side of the street, leaning against a lamppost as his stomach heaved and he brought up the beers he'd had. How many? He didn't even know any more. No food though. When was the last time he ate?
He stayed there, against the lamppost, until his stomach settled. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, disgusted with the taste, with the fact that he couldn't even control himself enough to not puke in public.
Not just that. He had a sudden vivid memory of the woman's lips on him as he came, standing at a bar, at Rosario's or Rosita's or wherever the hell he'd been. What the hell had he been thinking?
He walked away from the lamppost. Don't think about it. Don't think about any of it. Can't think about it, just try to get through the night and sober up enough to get home.
Home. To the kids. His kids, whom he loved more than life itself, his kids who deserved a good father. What kind of father would cheat on their mother? With a woman whose name he didn't even remember, a woman who gave a perfect stranger a blow job at a bar? What kind of father would do that? What kind of father was he, doing drugs, puking in the street?
Couldn't go home yet. Couldn't go home, he might pass out. If the kids found him, they'd know something was wrong. He had to get home sober enough to remember to take a shower, wash off the smell of the beer and grass and sex. Wash off the smell of the nameless woman.
He felt like crying all of a sudden, knew it was the drugs and alcohol and remorse. Don't don't don't, if you start you'll never stop. Clamp down.
He walked a bit farther, finding a park. Sat down on a bench. Still disoriented, no idea where he was. Nameless park, swings empty. Close enough to bring the kids here? Probably not, even if he knew where the hell 'here' was. Nice, condoms and a syringe next to the slide. Just like the place where he usually took Tania.
He frowned, thinking about the lousy neighborhood he lived in, all he could afford these days. About Deborah's cousin, who had embezzled from her family's casino five years ago and brought that source of income to a screeching halt for all of them. Not to mention saddling all the shareholders with debts from a federal investigation and lawsuit, just when his family could least afford it.
Thought about the secondhand clothes, the constant no's every time Serena asked for something. And her anger every time he said no. And her selling cocaine to make money, when that asshole drug dealer decided to recruit little kids to help him move his supply. Serena selling to help out because he couldn't keep them afloat, couldn't pay for medicines and babysitting and nursing on his salary and still have enough to feed and clothe a family of six.
His daughter, his ten year old who used to run to hug him, used to look up to him, selling cocaine and hating him. Screaming "I hate you!!" at least a once a day, and it cut deep every single time. And he hated her too sometimes, resentment bubbling over until he screamed it at her too. What the hell was wrong with him. How could he say that to his own daughter, how could he slap her so hard it left a red print on her cheek. His own hand snapping her head to the side, his little girl that he swore to take care of, his daughter that he cherished.
He'd seen plenty of abusive parents, had never understood them. Never understood how their love could turn to hate, how they could hurt their own flesh and blood. Children were a gift from God; how could anybody treat that gift with anything less than wonder and reverence?
And now he could understand, could understand perfectly because exhaustion brought him so close to that point every single day, skirting the line and he didn't know when the slaps would turn into outright abuse. Hell, it probably was abuse already, he didn't even know any more. When would he draw blood, break a bone, shove her down the stairs, shut her up by smacking her face against the wall. He had been tempted so many times, and he wasn't any damn good at resisting temptation any more. Some day Serena was going to push him over the line. Always needling him, making everything difficult, always screaming her defiance and her hatred. Pointing out his failures, his weaknesses.
He put his head in his hands. Wanting to stop the images forming, wanting to distance himself, but not able to. Not able to control his thoughts, not able to control his emotions, not able to control his actions, not able to control damn anything.
Throat tightening, eyes filling with tears. NO! He got up, mind churning, images of Serena and their almost constant anger at each other, Olivia and Isabel silent and waiting for him to notice them, to talk to them, to listen to them. Tania lost in her own little world, Tania who would never be normal, never really grow up.
And Deborah. Deborah, trying to calm him down when he railed at Serena. Deborah crying, like she did so much of the time now, Deborah screaming at him to leave if he hated them all so much.
Deborah under his body, biting her lip and trying not to cry out, no passion for him any more, trying, but it was rape. It was rape, didn't matter that she had said she was ready, he knew her better than that, but he had been so tired of not touching her and so tired of wanting and waiting and so desperate to feel her around him again and he had let her tell him she was ready. And she wasn't, not by a long shot, and she bit back a cry of pain and then told him it was OK, and he almost stopped and he should have, but by then he was too far gone and he told himself she would be fine but she wasn't, and then he was coming and the feeling of relief was replaced by horror so quickly it was amazing he'd ever had sex again. Deborah was in pain, and he had caused it. With his own body he had hurt her. With this ring, I thee wed. With my body, I thee worship. That was the vow. And he'd broken it, broken it so many times, in so many ways.
He walked to the edge of the park, saw a car coming down the street, a little fast. It would be so easy to just walk in front of it. All of this, over. No more guilt, no more pain and no more knowledge that it was never going to get any better. In fact, it was going to get worse because now his mother was deteriorating too. Alzheimer's. That scared him so much he didn't even let himself think about it, because when he did he felt stark despair. He remembered looking at his gun a long time ago, before he turned it in, thinking how easy it would be to pull the trigger and end it all. He had even toyed with it a few times, seeing what it felt like up against his temple, in his mouth. Put it down shaking. Wishing there was something else he could do to make things better. But there wasn't. There wasn't any other way out.
He backed away from the curb. Stop. You're too drunk and high to make any decisions. Just move, walk, don't think.
He found himself in front of a church, no memory of how he got there or what he'd been doing between the park and the church. Great, now he was having blackouts. Without meaning to, he was inside. Rituals he'd followed since he was old enough to remember. Dip fingers in the holy water, cross himself facing the front of the church.
Confessional empty, not that he could confess right now anyway, he was too drunk. Stumbled to a pew. Knelt down. Mind blank. Didn't even know how to begin.
Long time later, hands clasped, head bowed, eyes closed. God, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I can't... I can't go on. I don't know what to do any more. I'm lost. I don't know why I keep letting myself do what I know is wrong, why I keep failing. That woman, everything we did... I wanted to so much, I didn't even care that it was wrong. I should avoid temptation, I should turn away, I'm a grown man, not a boy. God I want to do what's right. I want to be faithful, I want to be a good parent, a good Christian, follow Your teachings, but it's so hard. I can't. I'm failing. I'm so ashamed and scared.
God I'm so sorry. Help me, please. I'm confused and alone. I haven't felt like life's worth living for such a long time. Everything that used to bring me joy, my wife, my children, it's nothing but pain now. I'm so scared I'll hurt Serena. She hates me, and I can't even blame her, I hate myself. Please, help me not to hurt her. Please give me strength to be patient with her. Please give me the strength to take care of my family, to do the right thing.
And Deborah... God I ache for Deborah. I wish with all my heart and soul that we could make love the way we used to, that she would smile at me and I could hold her, that I could wake up next to her instead of on the couch by myself. That I could just touch her without her drawing away. I hurt her, and I can't forgive myself for that. Father Morelli forgave me, Deborah forgave me, but I can't forgive myself. I'm so ashamed, and I still want her so much. Help me to accept this. Help me to accept that I'll never touch Deborah again. Help me to deal with this. I want to stop hurting, and I can't. The only thing that takes away the pain for a little while is being with a woman and I know it's wrong, but I'm so weak and so tired. God help me. God help me. Please help me. I don't want to live any more. Your greatest gift to us is life and I don't want it any more. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Please help me. Please.
He stayed there for a long time, mind going blank again, finally feeling the peace of the church settling over him, or maybe it was just exhaustion, he didn't care. Finally felt strength to continue for one more day. Crossed himself, got up.
Outside, walking again. Mind starting to clear up a bit. Where was he? Oh - not that far from home. He stopped for a moment and tried to judge his state of mind. It was a bit easier to balance now and he wasn't feeling so confused. He looked around, and nothing was swaying too much. Shook his head and didn't feel dizzy. He could probably go home, he would remember to shower before going to sleep. He'd already thrown up, so that probably wouldn't be a problem either.
OK. Back home. Back to his prison. He started out, his steps slowing as he got closer, reluctant to walk back into the place that held so much pain. As he approached his building, he noticed a few cars out front, a cop near a car, a couple of people talking in front of the building. What time was it? Little late for idle loitering outside a building, but it was Friday night. The police out front wasn't a big surprise; it wasn't a great neighborhood. Probably the tenants in #18 had had another domestic incident.
Back home. He could do this. He had to, he didn't have a choice. He took a deep breath, and slowly started up the stairs.


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