Sunday, August 20, 2000

In/Exhale - August 25, 2000

So in case you're confused, be sure to read the Introduction, and you might want to brush up on day one - August 21, 2000 - which has three parts because it's a long day!

On August 21, we met Kai - 22 years old, who recently has gone back to school after getting a double-lung transplant. He's also dealing with MLS, a neuromuscular condition that affects his ability to walk. Not to mention still being hung up with an ex who hurt him badly, Becca; his uncertain sexual relationship with Nikki; and a budding interest in his classmate Renee. Plus an overprotective workaholic brother, Jon.

We also got a chance to meet Jon and see a bit of his obsession and neuroticism. We met Nikki, a waitress who may have more to her than she lets people believe, and Renee, a New Orleans transplant obviously enamored with Kai.

Now we skip forward from Monday to Friday, the first Friday of the semester. Let's see what Renee, Nikki, and Kai are up to, tonight, shall we??

Note: Diane, Renee's roomate, is NOT the same Diane that Kai dated and referenced earlier, but it does cause issues later.

FYI: This scene contains graphic sex and adult language. Reader discretion is advised.


August 25, 2000

It was Friday night, the first Friday since classes started, and Renee was curled up on the couch with her friend and roommate, Diane. Renee and Diane had met their freshman year, when they'd ended up as roommates after an unfortunate incident that left them both in need of someone to bunk with. They'd become fast friends, and even though Diane had decided to shift her focus to graphic design instead of architecture, after their first year, they'd found a cozy two-bedroom not far from campus to share rather than putting up with the meager Jonesville U dorms again.

Diane stuffed a handful of popcorn in her mouth, then set the big plastic bowl between them. Renee was channel surfing, trying to find something for them to watch, but neither of them were really paying attention to the screen.

"We're pathetic. First Friday night of the year and we're in our PJs watching cable when we could be out finding Mr. Right."

Diane was focused on Renee as she spoke, and so she immediately caught the blush that colored Renee's cheeks.

"Ooooh. OK, so now I understand your reluctance to tell me about your first week of classes. Who is he?"

Renee left the TV on a gameshow rerun and shifted on the couch so she could face Diane better. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Uh huh," Diane said skeptically, grabbing the remote and shutting off the TV with a quick gesture, not bothering to tear her gaze from her friend. "Spill."

Renee sighed and let herself sink into her seat a bit. "His name is Kai. And he's gorgeous."

Diane laughed at the small sigh that escaped Renee's lips. "Wow, one week and you're in love already?"

Renee frowned, but the expression didn't last as she started talking about Kai. "He's a freshman, but I think he's older. He looks older, anyway. Not like most of the other guys in my freshman core classes. Makes me grateful I decided to focus on my major last year instead of my common curriculum classes. He's in every class with me that isn't architecture-based."

"Kai?" Diane said, rolling his name out on her tongue. "That's an unusual name."

"Yeah. I looked it up. It's Japanese. Or Hawaiian. Or Chinese. But he's all Midwestern. Really tall--"

Diane tossed a piece of popcorn at Renee playfully. "Everyone's really tall compared to you."

Renee grabbed the popcorn and popped it in her mouth, then stuck her tongue out. Renee was barely five feet tall, and so she was dwarfed by everyone at Jonesville U, where the average woman was 5'8" and the average guy at least 6'1". Diane wasn't from Jonesville originally; she came from a spot-on-the-map town in South Dakota and had decided to go "south" for school. Part Sioux, she dwarfed Renee by at least six inches when they both stood barefoot, and kept her dark hair braided, although she was immensely jealous of Renee's curls.

"Anyway," Renee said with a mock sneer, "he's totally not like the guys I'm used to from back home. "Tall--"

"You said that already," Diane interrupted with a smirk, stuffing popcorn in her mouth.

Renee stuck her tongue out again. "With the most beautiful blue eyes I've ever seen. They're this deep, rich blue, almost a turquoise, but more blue than green. I could stare into them forever. And he's got this delicious golden hair, too. I've known some blonds, but nothing like this."

Diane laughed. "You're totally smitten."

Renee blushed but couldn't deny it. "He's also smart and funny and sweet," Renee added. "He's got these incredibly long fingers. Sometimes I'd find myself forgetting to take notes because I'd be too busy watching him."

"All right," Diane said, one eyebrow arched, popping a piece of popcorn onto her tongue, "If he's Mr. Perfect, then why are you on the couch with me instead of somewhere doing the nasty with him?" Diane had to shield herself as Renee threw a handful of popcorn toward her. "Hey! You're cleaning this up!"

"Because he is Mr. Perfect," Renee sighed, gathering up some of the spilled corn and collecting it in her palm. "Why would he be interested in a shrimp with small breasts from Louisiana when he could have someone as blond and tall as he is?" Renee shifted the popcorn in her hands, poking it at it with her opposite finger, almost as if she were counting coins. "He's muscular, too. Not disgusting like a body builder, just nice, you know? You should see his biceps." Renee sighed. "I'm sure he has some cheerleader girlfriend at home."

"But you don't know that," Diane said, her face serious.

Renee shook her head. "I may have half my classes with him, but that doesn't mean we've gotten past more than basic conversation. 'Do you have a girlfriend?' isn't exactly idle 'getting to know you' chit chat."

"All right," Diane said, straightening up and grinning. "Ask him to meet you at The Chipped Mug. Everyone loves coffee, and that'll give you a chance to get to know him better. Worst case, you find out he's taken, and friends drink coffee together all the time. No harm, no foul. You can stay friends with him and secretly scribble Mrs. . . . What's his last name?"

"Fox. Kai Fox."

"OK, you can secretly decorate your notebook with 'Mrs. Kai Fox,' while you drool over his long fingers and golden hair and muscles . . ."

"You're mocking me."

Diane shrugged and stuffed some more popcorn in her mouth, so that when she spoke, her words came out mumbled. "Maybe a little."

Renee laughed and leaned against the cushion of the couch. "I guess you're right. It'd be nice to spend some extra time with him, and I don't really have anything to lose. Who knows, maybe he has a thing for short French girls with dark, curly hair."


Kai felt guilty about not spending the night when Nikki'd asked, even if he had a good excuse. She'd pretended she hadn't been serious, and she hadn't asked again, but it had still gnawed at him the rest of the week, so when she suggested they hit a party together Friday evening, Kai went against his better judgment and agreed. He'd never had much opportunity to experience parties when he was younger, and he didn't have an incredible fondness for crowds or loud music, but without his crutches, Kai thought it might not be so bad. And his new life was supposed to be about new experiences, right?

Well, he could cross "college kegger" off his bucket list. The party was a fairly typical opening-week beer fest, at least that's what Nikki claimed as they squeezed in the front door together, before the roar of music overwhelmed their voices. Apparently Nikki frequented these things from time to time, prowling the drunk freshmen like a jungle cat stalking its prey.

Kai wasn't sure if it was habit or residual resentment on her part or something else--women were so hard to understand--but she pointed him in the general direction of the keg, patted him on the back with a grin, and shouted for him to "have fun" before disappearing off into the throng. Unsure what to do and feeling incredibly out of place, Kai shuffled his way through the sea of bodies until he found a group gathered around the silver-barreled fountain he knew had to be the keg, even if he'd never seen one himself, not in real life, anyway. He felt suddenly silly; 22 and at his first real college party, but quickly pushed the thought aside. Kai had learned early the importance of persona, and so he pulled on his mask of casual indifference, deciding to play the role of lecherous upper classman, here for the free alcohol and hoping to seduce a freshman or two. No one would know the difference, as long as Kai kept his face a mixture of ennui and superiority, his shoulders squared to emphasize his upper body bulk and height.

Still in character, Kai pushed past the kids gathered around the kitchen, grabbed a red cup from the stack, and shoved it into the nearest guy's hand, making sure the freshman didn't match Kai's height or weight. "Fill it," he barked. The kid didn't hesitate, but Kai ignored him, searching the crowd for Nikki. She wasn't anywhere in sight, although a few cute blondes did smile at him when his gaze crossed their paths. Kai smiled back, as fit his role, and he wasn't naive enough not to know if he waited a few more beers they'd happily blow him--or better--in one of the back bedrooms.

Maybe later, if only to flatter himself, he thought dourly, forcing his way out of the kitchen and back toward the main room. The music was loudest here, the furniture pushed aside to make room for a makeshift dance floor, bodies bumping and grinding and sloshing beer on each other roughly to the beat of the music. Kai hung back, scanning the crowd, sipping his beer and trying not to frown. How did people drink this stuff? It tasted like soapy water. Kai didn't find Nikki, but a chubby brunette dressed in a failed attempt at punk found him. She was short, even in her chunky knee-high boots, and although the music was far too loud for conversation, Kai could see in her glazed eyes she was drunk, maybe on more than alcohol. She definitely didn't look 21; in fact, she didn't look a day over 16. Either she was a very young freshman, or high-school kids had crashed the party. Even if she was of age, there was no way Kai was taking advantage of a girl so drunk she'd throw herself on him like this. And she did, quite literally, pressing her cheek against the base of his sternum, muttering something he couldn't hear but instead feel as vibrations coursing through his body.

Not sure what to do, Kai reached to hold her in a one-armed embrace, shifting his weight to his right leg. This party was a mistake. Uncertain, Kai held her for a few moments, but then he nearly fell over when he jumped in shock as he felt her massaging his crotch through his pants. His body reacted instinctively to her touch, but his brain forced him to push her away. He'd spilled nearly all of the sudsy beer when he reacted, so he found a surface to leave his cup and abandoned the girl in his quest to find Nikki.

The next room wasn't any quieter or less crowded, although the furniture here was nearly non-existent. It linked with another room through a large open doorframe, merging the spaces into one. Most likely a formal dining and living room, now it was lined with couples frantically humping each other along walls, groping on the floor, a few dancing in the center, beer sloshing as they moved drunkenly together.

Kai's hips ached as he moved through the room, and he longed for a place to sit, but there was none. Even most of the wall space was occupied by bodies, and the smell of beer and vomit was thick in the air. Kai supposed the party was much more enjoyable inebriated, but he still couldn't see the attraction. Weaving his way into the adjoining room wasn't easy, with bodies everywhere. It was still relatively early, but some were already passed out.

The thrum of music was a bit dimmer here, to Kai's relief, and he was able to find a spot of wall to lean against. It wasn't as good as sitting, but it would do for now. It didn't take long for his eyes to find Nikki. She stood in the far corner, her head thrown back in laughter and pleasure as several younger men fawned over her. It was impossible for Kai to say from here how drunk she was, but she was clearly enjoying herself. Nikki in her element, Kai thought, frowning, and then grew annoyed with himself. Nikki had every right to have fun; that's why they were here, after all. They weren't exclusive, he reminded himself--by mutal agreement; she may have taught him a lot about sex, and he might find himself craving her like a junkie, but she wasn't his. As if anyone could "own" Nikki, even if they wanted to. Nikki was a free spirit that couldn't be caged. Part of her appeal, perhaps.

When Kai had first decided to call Nikki, to see her, neither of them had planned for it to be more than sex, a one-time thing. Nikki apparently did that well, and Kai was desperate to forget Becca. Forget how she'd abandoned him when he'd needed her most. Forget how badly she'd hurt him. Forget that rejection felt like an ugly pink scar seared into his neck.

Nikki, sexy, sexy, Nikki, who didn't seem fazed by crutches or scars, who was content to fuck him, no questions asked, seemed like the perfect medicine. But she was addictive, and one night turned to a second, and a third, and soon he'd found himself dropping by her apartment nearly every afternoon for the last few months. Keep things superficial, physical, they'd both decided; both parties weren't interested in anything binding or serious. It was about fun, escape, living. Experiencing the life he had never had the opportunity to know while simultaneously running from the new, uncertain future and the past that refused to stay forgotten, behind him.

Perhaps Nikki assumed the nights Kai didn't come to her he went to someone else. Perhaps that's very much what she did when they weren't together.

She was wearing a tight dress that buttoned in the front, and Kai could see as the men moved around her that it was half opened, one guy with his mouth on her nipple, the second with a hand up the dress, and the third, nibbling her earlobe. Nikki lowered her head and seemed to meet Kai's eyes, grinning like a Cheshire cat and pulling the nibbler in for a passionate kiss.

Kai sighed and rubbed his left thigh through his jeans. He really needed to sit down. He searched the room; at this point, even the floor would do, and his eyes caught sight of dark curly hair. His heart leapt, even though logic dictated the likelihood of it belonging to Renee was low. This was a freshman party, for one thing. He found the mane of tousled curls again and realized it wasn't Renee; this girl was much taller, with a more delicate frame, more of a model's body than Renee's compact, petite form.

Still, Kai kept his gaze fixed on this mysterious woman, if only to avoid looking at Nikki, because seeing her like that made his stomach churn despite himself. When the curly-haired woman turned at last, she saw Kai staring and grinned. She wasn't nearly as beautiful as Renee, but she wasn't bad to look at, either, with a long face and nose and large, slanting, cat-like eyes and full lips. Her skin was as pale as porcelain, contrasting sharply with her dark-brown irises. She looked even more the model as she strode toward him, one leg in front of the other, as if she were walking down a catwalk, elegant despite the mess of bodies around her. She wore a v-necked top and no bra, not that she needed one for her tiny breasts, the slit of the shirt dipping nearly to her navel.

Without a word, she approached him, planted a hand on each of his hips, and pulled him toward her into a hungry kiss. She was tall, at least six foot, so that he barely had to dip his head to meet hers. Her tongue tasted faintly of alcohol--but not beer, something stronger--and cigarettes, with an underlying sweetness that surprised him. As he felt his body reacting, a delightful heat straining against his jeans, he realized this is why Nikki came to these parties.

Kai's hands smoothed over the nameless girl's body as they continued to kiss, and he pressed his erection against her, his mind singly focused. Forgetting. Living. She leaned into him, pushing back against him, rubbing gently, her mouth trailing from his to find his pulse point, and Kai forgot his pain, forgot everything in her touch, not thinking as she unbuttoned his collar, spreading the fabric to expose his neck.

It took an instant for Kai to notice she'd pulled away from him, and he forced his eyes to look down, where he saw she was staring. He realized, too late, what her gaze was focused on, his fingers rushing up to cover his trache scar. Her face had paled beyond its even natural whiteness, her lips hung open just slightly.

Without bothering to speak, she shook her head, colored, and disappeared into the crowd. Kai slammed his fists into the wall beside him but otherwise didn't move, not even to rebutton his shirt, his eyes tightly closed.

Kai wasn't sure how long he stayed like that, ignoring the subtle twitch of the small muscles in his hip joint, until he felt the gentle touch of fingers on the nearly invisible hair of his arm.

"Having fun?" A familiar voice asked, forcing Kai to open his eyes.

Nikki. She'd rebuttoned her dress mostly, and her hair was slightly mussed, but otherwise you would never tell she'd been entertained in the corner by several guys only minutes earlier.

Kai tried to keep his face neutral as he replied, "Not really."

Nikki slipped her arms around his neck, looking up at him, amused. She was a little drunk, but not very. Buzzed more than anything. She smiled at him. "She's still got you, doesn't she?"

Kai didn't need to ask what Nikki meant; she wasn't referring to the cat-eyed girl he'd just been snogging; no, she meant Becca, and as much as he hated to admit it, Nikki was right. Was it really Renee he'd been hoping to see in that girl, or, as illogical as it was, had his heart leapt at the thought of touching Becca again?

Kai frowned, feeling sick to his stomach as if he'd drunk even though he hadn't. "I'm ready to go. If you want to stay, that's fine . . ." Kai said, looking back toward the corner where the three guys were toasting their manly prowess or something, knocking red cups together and laughing.

Nikki followed his gaze and laughed. "Nah, I'm done here." She grinned wide. "Come on, sexy," she said, pushing herself up to kiss his trache scar. "Let's go."


Kai was limping heavily by the time they snuck out of the party, still going full blast, the house shaking behind them from the thrum of music and gyrating of bodies. She almost apologized as they climbed into his car–for the party, for everything–but instead bit her lip and watched his profile in the moonlight. Why had she insisted on bringing him? Leaning back in the seat, she thought about it. She’d convinced herself it was fifty-fifty he’d walk out of there with someone else, some hot freshman.

Glancing over at him, she saw his eyes fixed on the road–the house was out in the country, the road back to her apartment over dark unpaved dirt through endless cornfields, the scent of manure faint in the air even with the windows closed. She remembered how he’d looked at her while she was pressed into the corner with those three boys fawning over her, touching and kissing and licking and sucking. It wasn’t quite jealousy or even betrayal. Not even possessiveness. No, his eyes had been vacant, yet not lacking expression. And then that girl. Curly hair. It didn’t take a genius to know why Kai’s entire demeanor had changed when she’d rubbed up against him.

Nikki gritted her teeth. She hadn’t even really tried to elicit the attention of those three guys until she’d noticed Kai’s golden hair rising above the crowd. Ugg. This was so not like her. She hadn’t even bothered to get very drunk, and although she easily could have found her own way home, the thought of Kai leaving without her . . .

She leaned over, letting her hand stroke his thigh, easing her fingers toward his crotch. In the dim light, she could see his right hand tighten on the steering wheel.

"Nikki," he said, his voice stern. "Not while I’m driving."

The car bounced as it shifted off dirt onto pavement. They were still alone; no other cars, no other lights other then their headlights piercing the darkness in front of them. She ignored his words and pressed further, fingertips smoothing over the seam of his jeans, enjoying the subtle scraping sound of skin against denim.

"Nikki . . ." he said again, but as always, when she pressed him, the firmness of his voice faltered, and he cocked his right hip slightly. An invitation?

She had space. And now that they were off the worst of the back-country roads, she didn’t have to worry about bumping her head. But she’d never attempted this in a car fitted with hand controls. Would the bars leading from the grip to the pedals hit her? Probably not worth the risk. Plus, they’d be home soon, and she could have him all night. Lay him out on her bed and lick him from head to toe, little flicks of her tongue.

She shifted her left hand to his crotch, squeezing and rubbing gently, enjoying the heat beneath her palm, while her right cupped over his on the steering wheel. His breathing became more ragged, and she was seriously tempted to tell him to pull over and let her take him right here, in his car, in the middle of no where.

Nikki had always had an active sex drive, and she’d never been ashamed of it. But no guy she’d ever been with had turned her up and on the way Kai did. And she didn’t even know why. Maybe it was his elusiveness? His boy-next-door looks? No, it was more than that. Despite how little they'd shared about their lives beyond the basic physicality of their relationship over the past few months, she sensed a kindred spirit. They were both searching for something, and although she knew it couldn't be a permanent solution, for now, they'd found it in each other.

She forced herself to back off as the lone country road widened to four lanes, with street lights highlighting the night as they drew closer to town. Sitting on her calves, she tickled his ear with her finger.

"You better come in and let me fuck you," she said, licking her lips. "Don’t you dare drop me off and leave me hanging."

"Leave you hanging?" He said, eyebrow cocked, turning toward her briefly before returning his concentration to the road. "Fuck, Nikki, you’re killing me."

Nikki smirked, settled back in her seat. Then the words were out of her mouth before she could stop them. "That girl. The curly hair. Back at the party. Would you have . . . if she hadn’t . . . would you have fucked her?"

Kai frowned, his hand clenched on the steering wheel, a tight sigh releasing with a loud hiss of air through teeth. He dropped his head slightly, shook it, but it wasn't clear if that meant "No" in response to her question, or if it were more than that.

"I wasn’t going to fuck those guys," she said, scratching at the fabric of her dress, tight around her thighs from the position in which she sat. "Well . . ." She hesitated. She’d have let them finger fuck her, maybe. They were close to doing it already. But nothing more than that.

Before she could finish, he responded, "You don’t need my permission to fuck someone else, and I don’t need yours." His tone was flat. Streetlight filtered in through the windshield, casting a white pallor on his forearm, where she could see the muscles were tense.

Fuck. Why do I always fuck things up? Nikki normally went for the guys who wouldn’t stay because the ones who would never did. So she never had to worry about fucking things up. It was just easier. But why is Kai simultaneously so easy and yet so. . . .
"I’m sorry," she said. "I’m a little drunk," she tried as an excuse, even though she knew he wouldn’t buy it. Kai never got drunk, but he'd seen her tipsy more than once.

"Whatever," he said. "We’ll fuck, fine. I’ll go home. You’ll go to work tomorrow. I’ll see you Monday. Whatever."

He was angry. Maybe this has more to do with that curly-haired girl than with anything I've said or done wrong, Nikki thought hopefully.

"That girl–"

"Don’t." Kai’s chest rose and fell sharply a few times; his lips pressed tightly together. "Just don’t."


Neither of them said a word the rest of the trip, and Nikki had been convinced he was going to drop her off and drive into the night. Instead, she found herself thrown up against her apartment door, Kai leaning into her, kissing her hungrily, bracing himself with one hand, the other roaming her body feverishly.

He pressed against her, and she sunk into his touch, the taste of his mouth, her fingers fumbling at the buttons of his shirt. Kai broke the kiss to nip at the base of her neck, the delicate skin of her shoulder, tentative bites in a line from her ear to her arm. She squirmed, slipping his shirt off one arm at a time, tossing it away and lolling her head to one side to expose herself to him. He sucked at the skin, licking the marks with his tongue, his breath hot and warm against her.

His hand gripped her hip hard enough to leave bruises; she knew if she asked him to back off he would, but she didn’t. She’d never seen him like his: so hungry, possessive; it was incredibly sexy. She moaned as he continued to swipe his tongue over her skin, a powerful yet delicate tingle coursing through her body. Her fingers smoothed over his bare chest, nearly hairless, falling into his sternal scar.

Together, they unbuttoned her dress, and she let it fall away from her, leaving her naked. He pulled back to admire her, still bracing himself with one arm, the fingers of his opposite hand trailing lightly over her skin, down through the soft space between her breasts, over her belly, finding the beginning of the tattoo that curled around her navel.

A phoenix, brilliant red-and-orange flames and feathers contrasting sharply against her pale skin. They were breathing in unison, eyes filled with lust as his touch trailed along the tattoo toward the small, neat landing strip of hair nestled above her slit. His index finger traced it, dipping down.

"You let those fuckers finger fuck you?" His voice was nearly a growl.

Her only answer was a laugh, deep and throaty.

He pressed into her, grip shifting to an arm, head bent, eyebrows furrowed. "Bed. Now."

She stared into his eyes, grown dark and steely, like the sky before a storm, and licked her lips. Once his grip released, she dashed off toward the bed, stopping only to grab a condom before hopping onto the mattress with a bounce, spreading hers legs for him, propping herself up with two hands, knowing she had to watch him, uncertain of exactly what he would do next, but excited rather than nervous.

Kai approached her, determined, but visibly favoring his right leg. Nikki observed him, touching herself absently, her head tilted slightly back. She resisted the urge to moan for him; most guys loved noise, but she could see in the fierceness of Kai’s gaze that tonight would be pure and raw without excess. When he stopped at the foot of the bed, she inched forward, wiping a cunt-moistened finger on his belly before popping open his jeans and sliding them and his boxers down, down, toward his ankles.

His legs quaked, and she glanced up, noticing his diminishing erection, a slight grimace. But before she could say or do anything, he pushed her back onto the bed and crawled on top of her, pants around his ankles. He could easily crush her, but he kept most of his weight on his hands as he leaned forward toward her ear.

"Bite me," he breathed, the arch of his neck hovering over her mouth.

His body bobbed slightly with each inhalation, his cock rubbing at her leg. She wrapped an arm around the back of his neck, pulling him closer, tasting him, sucking the skin before biting, just hard enough to leave a mark. She could see the red rim from her teeth in the dim light. He groaned and managed an awkward thrust, grazing the skin of her thigh.


She steadied his body, shifted her mouth down, and bit again, this time harsher; he grunted, but she didn’t relent, clamping down until she tasted iron, pulling back and licking at the blood. Not being exclusive, she knew she shouldn’t, but she couldn’t resist. They’d played a little rough before--a nip or two here, a twist of a nipple there--but never anything hardcore. Nikki’d done it before, not like that was really her scene, but right now she’d do just about anything he wanted.

He shifted, tried to press toward her; he was harder now, she could feel him.

"Fuck," he said in frustration.

She felt blindly for the little foil packet, tearing it open and tossing it aside, then lightly stroked him before rolling it on. He rarely topped her, not like this, but she was ready for him.

Nikki spread her legs, grabbed him, pulling him in and biting down forcefully on his opposite shoulder, sinking her teeth in until he arched his back and sank inside her. She
held the bite, digging in her teeth before finally letting go.

He let out a low moan, shifting his hips, pulling himself deeper with his arms. She wrapped her legs around him, pressing him against her, aiding his movements. Fuck, this feels fantastic, she thought, eyeing the thin stream of blood filming over his skin near the marks on each shoulder.

"Kai–" she said, smoothing a palm over his chest, her other pressed against his back–anything to draw him closer.

"Don’t. Just don’t," he said through clenched teeth, echoing his earlier comments from the car, dipping his head.

She could smell the sweat, nearly taste it, expecting it to drip off the tip of his nose onto her face. Nikki rocked her hips up against his, squeezing his cock, moving with him, pulling him toward and away from her, reveling in the sweet hum of friction between them. Seeing him like this made the party worth it, she thought, two fingers tracing over his pecs and finding a nipple, squeezing it hard between them, making him emit a loud, low grunt. His stomach spasmed, his elbows faltered as he rode out his orgasm.

She held him close, waiting; his forehead sank to her shoulder. Then she felt him shudder.

"Kai?" she said, confused, dropping her legs and smoothing a hand on his spine.

For a moment, he held himself, his body trembling slightly, silent except for the rough rush of his breathing. Finally, he pushed, rolling himself off her onto his back, covering his eyes with a forearm, pressing his fingers into one of the bites with the other.

Nikki shifted to her side, pulling the condom off his limp cock, tying it off and tossing it away, then shimming up to him, laying a gentle hand on his stomach.

"Hey," she said, her voice barely a whisper.

He didn’t respond, nails digging into flesh until bright blood bubbled up fresh.

"Shit, Kai. What the fuck?"

He rubbed his forearm into his eyes before dropping both his hands and pushing himself into a sitting position. She tried to read his face in the dim light, but it was impossible. After a moment, he pushed the fingers of one hand toward his chest, then formed both hands into "V’s," bouncing one hand off the top of the other, fingers pointed in opposite directions.

Nikki frowned, brow furrowed, and watched as his hands began to move until she reached out and stopped him, gripping his wrists. "I don’t know what you’re saying. Fucking talk to me. What the fuck is going on? Is this about the curly-haired girl? Because I think I have a wig I can throw on if that’s what you fucking need."

He sighed, rubbed his thigh with the heel of one hand. "I’m fucked up, Nikki."

She laughed, propped her head on her elbow, looking at him. "Yeah, well, join the club."

That earned a smirk, and he allowed himself to fall back down. He let out a long sigh.

"You want to talk about it?" She lightly grazed her fingers on the soft, invisible hairs around his belly button.

An arm crossed over his chest, lightly testing the less bloody bite wound. "I need to disinfect these. Fuck. I need to get home."

Nikki licked her lips, leaned forward and kissed him, a few light pecks on the uninjured skin of his shoulder. "I’m sorry about the party."

He took a few slow breaths, and when she looked up, she noticed his eyes were closed. In the dim light, she could see just enough to make out the shift of his jaw bone to indicate teeth grinding and suspected the party was only part of his problems.

She watched him for a moment, smoothing a hand over his belly and onto his thigh. "I’ll go get some stuff to clean the bites. You’re welcome to stay, and you’re welcome to go." She tried to keep her voice neutral as she disappeared into the bathroom.

Nikki stared at her reflection in the mirror, leaning on the sink for a minute. Sometimes she wondered why she bothered with him. He could be a headcase; difficult to predict and interpret, and if you attempted to plough him to try to understand what went on beneath those blond locks, more often than not he’d shut you out. Not that Nikki could really blame him. After all, this was supposed to be just sex, right? She was the one trying to make things more complicated, asking him to spend the night, taking him to parties just so she could . . . what had she intended? Try to bait him? Make him jealous? She blew frustrated air through her lips, pushing some hair out of her eyes.

Relationships weren’t supposed to get to the point at which you needed to think, analyze, plot. She should cut him off. It’d be better for both of them. But she couldn’t. Fuck. She couldn’t.

She grabbed the rubbing alcohol, some cotton swabs, and bandaids, and padded back out to the bedroom, half expecting him to be gone. Instead, he’d removed his shoes, brace, and the rest of his clothes, and lay, half covered, arms folded and resting on his forehead, staring up into the darkness.

Nikki climbed onto the bed, sitting on her heels, dabbing at the bite closest to her, cleaning it and disinfecting it with the alcohol. She knew it had to sting, but he hardly reacted to her touch.

"Listen," Nikki said with a sigh, applying a large bandage to cover the wound. "I get it. I don’t talk about my past, you don’t talk about your past." She shrugged, started to crawl over him to access his other shoulder, but he grabbed her, held her straddling his body.

He pulled her down carefully, kissing her--intensely, but not nearly as ferally as earlier.

"Tell you what," he said between soft kisses, pulling at her lower lip. "You learn ASL and I’ll tell you anything you want."

Nikki freed her hands, then mimicked his sign from earlier, knocking her fists together,  index fingers of the "V's" touching.

He laughed.

She frowned. "Did I do it wrong?"

"Were you trying to tell me to fuck off?"

Her eyebrows raised, looking at him hopefully.

He laughed, grabbed her hands, rearranged them into the "V" fists. "This," he said, shifting her hands so that her index fingers touched, "is 'perfect.'  This," he said, pulling her hands apart, twisting them, then bumping her fists together, "is 'fuck.'"

She laughed, genuinely amused, tossing her head back, her hair falling about her face. "So 'perfect' is only an inch away from 'fucked up.' Nice."

"God, you’re fucking beautiful when you laugh, you know? Really laugh. You should do it more often."

Nikki’s face drew in on itself, and she shifted off him, grabbing the supplies. "I should finish getting you patched up.

He snagged her wrist. "I can do it."

"It’ll be easier for me, and I can make sure you don’t miss a spot." She frowned, going to work, then smirked. "I guess it’d be kind of funny if you died because I bit you, huh? Death by Nikki!"

She’d expected him to laugh at that; he usually would’ve. But his face was serious, and she wondered if she’d overstepped. She hurried to affix the second bandage, preparing to

"Nikki, what the fuck are we doing?" he finally asked in a sigh. She caught the faint gleam of his eyes in what little light they had.

She laughed, cleaning up the supplies and dumping them on the nightstand. "Getting ready for bed. Unless you’re up for round two?"

His eyebrows dipped, and he waved his hand between them, fingers folded, pinky and thumb extended. "I mean us."

Nikki sighed, slipped under the blanket, stretched out along his side. "I thought I knew. I don’t anymore."

Kai sighed, his breath shuddering out. "Ditto."

She hugged him close. "We could hit the diner, raid the pie. It's still a little early for the drunk crowd," Nikki suggested, knowing how Kai often came into the diner on days he was upset about something. He never talked about it, simple ate his pie in relative silence and left.

He sighed, brought her hand up to the bandage on his shoulder. "Not enough pie in the world for tonight," he said softly.

Nikki nodded against him. "Do you know why I have a phoenix tattoo?"

He breathed in and out a few times. "No."

"Because it shows that beauty can come from destruction, that life can rise from dead ash." She squeezed him, holding him tight as if she would lose him if she didn’t. "It means that the future is sprung from the past. I never wanted to forget that."

They embraced each other, let out held breaths, and tried to slip into sleep.


Kai woke an hour later, his legs aching. Nikki slept beside him, curled up, half on her stomach, half on her side, sheets bunched around her. For a few minutes, he watched her sleep, knowing he had to go back to the apartment, take his meds, and brace himself for the inevitable MLS attack his twitching muscles were warning him of.

But he could stay a few more minutes. Life used to suck, but it was familiar. Now everything had changed, and he felt groundless. Jon acted like Kai was still a lost, struggling, sick six-year-old. But maybe Kai wasn't a kid, and maybe he was cured, at least of his FS, but it didn't mean he knew what he was doing. Or even who he was anymore. So many personas; did he just need to find another one? Was there any "self" for him to be other than simply another mask to wear?

Some people drank, some got high, some jumped out of airplanes. Nikki had become his escape, his path to forgetting, his way to be himself and yet something else entirely. But what do you do when your drug no longer works? When the pain seeps through anyway?


Stay tuned next week, for some great scenes between Kai and Jon and oodles of delicious backstory and heart-rending nostalgia! ... And thanks for reading!

Continue to August 26, 2000 --->


  1. Wonderful episode! Thanks.

  2. Your writing is great. This is really fantastic that we have so many good writers here!! Not every story posted here is good, but there are some really outstanding ones in terms of writing and character development, and your "soap" is one of them. Thank you and I can`t wait to read more!