Salty and Sweet
No matter what I've tried, I just can't improve the flow of this chapter but I am posting it anyway because I know a few of you are waiting. Leave your suggestions below if you can find the problem(s).
A rift is widening between them. One that neither Alaine nor Lucas knows how to bridge. He is lost in his own mind contemplating what comes next as they ride the elevator to his apartment in silence.
Beside him, Alaine tries to figure out if she should say something and what that something should be.
Of all the outcomes they could have hoped for tonight, nothing could have prepared either one of them for this threat of being ripped asunder. That's what it feels like -- like they are being messed with by the fates and it's painful.
The sadness riding along with them overwhelms every other emotion. Its fuel isn't merely his mother clinging to life in the hospital. It has more to do with the knowledge that their relationship doesn't have a foothold as yet. Silently, they both fear the ramifications that will come along with him being gone.
Though it’s left unspoken, their selfish longings in the face of Claudia's tragic circumstance shame them both.
“I’m sorry, Ali,” Lucas says again as they step into his home.
Raising a hand to touch his face she replies, “don’t be. This is beyond your control,” she says. “And I hope your mom pulls through.”
“Thank you,” he responds. “Could you wait here a moment?” he requests. Before she answers, he’s already leaving her alone in the semi-darkness.
Just last night things had been so different right here in this living room.
With no clue where the switches are or if there are any for that matter, Alaine claps her hands and waits to see if the lights will flicker on. Nothing happens. Having no other choice, she sits stiffly on the sectional and gives in to her racing thoughts. Lucas leaves and then what? She goes back to regular programming? After the last two weeks with him, she can’t even remember what that looks like.
“Really, Alaine?” she chides herself softly. “His mom is in the hospital for christ’s sake.”
Yet, the thought at the forefront of her mind and weighing heavily on her heart isn't that his mother could die before the night is over. It's how much she is going to miss him.
One minute rolls quickly into another without a word from Lucas. The silence, the dark, and her melancholy lead Alaine on a search to find him.
She follows the faint illumination in the hall to the only room with light glowing from a lamp on his desk. For a little while, she stands there examining Lucas' strained features as he speaks rapid Italian into his phone.
After hanging up he leans his elbows onto the desk, drops the phone onto the neat surface with a loud clatter ringing in the quiet room and fits his face into hands.
Unable to resist his distress any more, she knocks on the door and says, “sorry,” when he lifts his head. “I don’t want to disturb but you kind of left me in the dark,” she explains. “Can I come in?”
“Oh god,” Lucas says. “My mind is a little...”
Light floods the hallway behind her when he taps an icon on his phone.
“I’ve been meaning to upgrade this,” he says. “Probably to something that turns on as soon as the elevator doors open. I haven’t thought it all the way through as yet. And it’s not like I have the time. But I’ll put this feature on your phone,” he rambles. “So next time you won’t...”
“Lucas,” Alaine interrupts as she steps up to his desk. “It’s fine.”
He exhales a long, slow breath, closes his eyes and nods at her.
Sensing his need for some kind of comfort, she pushes her thoughts of inadequacy aside and comes around the desk to fit herself between his legs. She trails a hand through his hair and he keeps his eyes closed to allow the exquisiteness of the simple gesture to uncoil the tension building inside him.
Her touch is like a soothing balm. Needing more, Lucas wraps his arms around her hips going willingly into her embrace when she offers it.
He looks up into her glowing eyes for a brief moment before pressing a kiss to her abdomen through her shirt. Then rests his cheek against her stomach.
She leans down to brush her lips over his hair and breathes him in. An extreme longing makes her weak as hope in her heart begins to shrivel.
He’s leaving, Alaine thinks.
Everything about this feels like goodbye. They’ve just started whatever is between them. It's a tiny spark. But Lucas doesn’t do relationships. Without him here, that little flame won't survive. She just knows it. He’ll probably find somebody over there to give him comfort.
Please don’t, she wants to beg as a silent tear slips down her face.
“It’s late,” Lucas announces into the fabric of her shirt. “Do you want to go to bed?”
Trying to get control of herself so he doesn’t pick up on the wavering in her voice, she takes another deep breath before answering, “sure.”
Wishing the night had turned out differently, Lucas releases his hold on her, pushes back his chair and stands.
So easily the lightness that carried him through the last couple of days has evapourated. The feeling has been replaced by two poignant thoughts; he has to leave Alaine and his mother might die tonight. It's a double portion of sadness weighing him down.
The sorrow he sees in Alaine's eyes turns his dejection over Claudia into anger. She’d gone to Italy and hadn’t even bothered to tell her only child. Now, this happens and he has to drop everything to run to her side.
It irks him because he has such a good thing going with Alaine. She was finally starting to come out of her shell for him.
Today, they had so much fun. There’s no way he could have imagined that this is how it would end. He’s not prepared for it and the thought of leaving her hangs a burden in his heart, unlike anything he’s ever known.
I can take her with me, Lucas thinks but he has a hard time believing that Alaine will agree. He expects that she will refuse so he won’t even broach the subject.
There is also the problem of the pictures. They came from Angus. He just knows it. Even if they hadn’t come from him, the fact is that someone sent them. The only logical conclusion he can draw is that Alaine is in danger. However, he still hasn't an inkling what to do about it. He thought he’d have more time to figure out what to do. How can he be of any help to her if he can’t be here?
This isn’t one of the trivial issues he can put to the back of his mind with a vacant promise that he’ll come back to it later. Something has to be done but his pattern of thought is so fragmented that almost nothing makes sense.
The only thing he has a handle on is here and now.
Because he doesn’t know when he will get to touch Alaine again, Lucas takes her hand to lead her out of his office. He needs this. He needs as many memories as possible to carry with him into the hell he’s about to re-enter with his stepfather.
It's been ages since he's seen Kurt and he was perfectly alright with that. Now he has to face off with the devil again.
He climbs the stairs to his bedroom and shuts the door behind them.
“Sit,” he orders Alaine.
Obediently, she sinks onto the edge of the bed while he kneels before her to tug off her shoes and socks. His fingers caress her feet, rubbing the soles in a gentle massage.
“You spend a long time on your feet, Ali,” he notes as he remembers her moving between tables to attend to her demanding customers. “You need comfortable shoes and a comfortable bed.”
My bed, he wants to say.
“I’m used to it,” she responds as she looks down at the mesmerizing way his hands stroke over her skin.
“Lie back. Arms above your head,” Lucas orders.
Without query, she does as he bids and hopes that he will make love to her before he goes.
Alaine sucks in a breath when he lifts her shirt to expose her midriff. His fingers run loosely over her flesh. She closes her eyes to better experience his touch and the way his lips begin to move over hers when he eases onto the bed beside her.
He drags his fingers back down to her waistband to undo her button and zipper and she waits impatiently for him to slip his hand inside to assuage the need in her already weeping flesh.
Unfortunately, he pulls himself away from her abruptly and moves to stand between her legs. Alaine’s eyes fly open but she feels more than sees him come to stand between her legs.
Bending over her, he grips the waistband of her pants in his hands and commands again, “lift.”
Again she obeys by raising her hips off the bed.
He drags her pants down her legs slowly. Every inch of her skin exposed to his view he devours with greedy eyes. He takes mental snapshots of the shapeliness of her body and the glow of her skin against the dark sheet in the semi-lit room.
Smoothing his hands up her bare legs to commit the texture to memory, he says, "I have a question."
“Okay,” Alaine breathes softly.
“Do you normally sleep with or without a bra?” he questions.
A slow rumble of laughter escapes her at the seriousness in his tone to such a silly question.
“Without,” she answers.
Coming to kneel on the bed with his legs on either side of her hips, he works her shirt off her body then drives his hands under her back to unclasp the hooks of her bra. After slipping the straps down her arms, he tosses it aside.
Except for her panties, she is naked beneath him and her nakedness is something to behold.
Alaine looks at the way he admires her. Instead of nervousness, she feels emboldened to be so exposed in his presence. She feels beautiful beneath his studious stare. Besides, if this is her last night with him, she wants it to be memorable. She wants to do something for him that he will never forget.
She lifts her hands to unbuckle his belt. Although he smiles down at her, he grabs her wrists in one hand to pin her arms back above her head again.
With his free hand, he palms one of her breasts and squeezes gently. Alaine moans because of the pressure and the way her nipple puckers when he moves his hand in little circular patterns over her.
Then without a word, he releases his and steps away to walk into his closet.
Left confused and bereft by his sudden disappearance, Alaine leans up on her elbows and looks down at her naked body. Growing self-conscious, she considers covering herself but refrains. This is her last night with Lucas until who knows when. Maybe it’s her last night with him period. If that is the case, she has no intention of ruining it with her insecurities.
No, she wants to enjoy it like it’s her final few hours on earth.
He emerges from the closest and walks back to the bed. Alaine tracks each of his steps until he comes to stand in front of her again.
He’s a beautiful man she notes as she waits for his next move with anticipation fluttering like butterfly wings in her stomach.
The last thing she expects him to do is to slip a t-shirt over her head. But that’s what happens. It’s anticlimactic after he built her up the way he did. She looks at him questioningly and he sighs.
“I don’t think I could tonight, baby,” he tells her apologetically.
An embarrassed flush heats her body. “Oh my god,” Alaine groans. “Of course. I’m such an idiot,” she laments. “I’m sorry...I...”
When she tries to lift herself off the bed to go in search of her clothes, his arms reach out to stop her.
“I just want to hold you, Ali,” Lucas says.
Once she hears the sincerity in his voice and reads the plea in his eyes, she brushes off the humiliation and lowers herself beside him.
Just like he’d done for her, she begins to unbutton his shirt to show her acquiescence. Lucas sits quietly allowing her to undress him. Each glide of her fingers on his skin scatters goosebumps all over his body.
Stripped down to his boxers, he climbs further up the bed and pats the spot beside him.
Alaine obeys the silent command and sidles her way into his arms.
They lie there in silence for a long time. She has no idea what to say or do to lift his spirit. Maybe in a situation like this, there is nothing she can really say. Not to mention how inexperienced she is when it comes to certain social graces.
Other than Mona and maybe Bethany she’s never had any friends. Even in those two relationships, they never really shared these intimate moments.
She wants to help Lucas. She wants to say the right thing to make him feel better. Unfortunately, she has no idea what that is. So she lies quietly with him in bed, listening to the steady rhythm of his heart, enjoying the sturdy feel of his body beside her and counting each rise and fall of his chest.
If her silence is all she can give him, then he’ll have it. And if this is all the time she gets to have with him, even if it’s not nearly enough, then she will latch on to this quiet moment like she has every other minute they’ve shared together.
He hasn’t said a single word since they reclined against the pillows, but she knows that he isn’t sleeping. Every now and then his arms around her tighten for a bit before going lax again or he touches her or he places a feather-light kiss over her hair.
Sleeping is the last thing either of them wants to do when the morning intends to tear them apart.
“I cut my hair myself once,” Lucas says his voice cutting through the quiet and the dark. “I was ten.”
“How did that work out for you?” Alaine asks with a little laugh.
He joins in her amused chuckle and answers, “terrible. I had patches everywhere.”
Flooded by the pain behind that memory, his laughter subsides and he sighs.
“Claudia was so pissed,” he confesses. “I’d never heard her so shrill before.”
“Why do you call your mom Claudia?” Alaine questions. “You were an insolent child, weren’t you?” she jokes. “You know, that doesn’t surprise me one bit.”
“I was a saint,” he says wistfully. “I used to be good. Or tried to be.”
After another long pause during which he debates whether to continue his tale or bottle it back up, his voice fills the silence again.
“She didn’t want me to call her mom after she and my dad got divorced,” he admits while running his finger absently over Alaine’s arm.
She looks up at him with a frown on her pretty face and he wonders if he should continue burdening her with his past.
“That’s terrible, Lucas,” she says. “And sad.”
His shoulder shrugs beneath her cheek. To comfort him, Alaine begins to mirror the pattern of the movement of his hand along her arm over his abdomen.
“That was my life,” he tells her. “Maybe she felt it was too painful after my dad left,” he tries to reason like he always does. “Maybe I reminded her of what she lost. I don’t know,” he muses. “Anything else is too painful to imagine. Like maybe she just couldn’t love me. Or maybe I was never good enough to be her son.”
The tears pooling in Alaine’s eyes slip silently down her cheek. Digesting what he is saying is difficult even if it sounds so much like her own story.
She clears her throat to try to get rid of the lump lodged there before asking, “with what did you cut it?”
A rumble of deep, male laughter pierces the night. “A pair of craft scissors,” Lucas admits.
Unable to help it because his laughter is so infectious, she laughs too.
“What gave you that inspiration?” she wonders out loud.
Another round of silence crowds the space between them and Alaine holds her breath. Something tells her she already knows the answer. Still, she can’t help her little gasp when he admits, “Kurt liked to grab it. It hurt and I wanted him to stop.”
The soft movement of her hand on him stills in the wake of his confession.
“Don’t stop doing that,” Lucas scolds softly. “I like to feel it. It’s very distracting,” he says.
Deciding to lay it all out on the table, he continues speaking just as her fingers start to paint invisible artwork on his skin again.
“Claudia was more concerned with the terrible hair cut than the bruises he left on me that day,” he tells her. “He fractured my arm when...” he tries to explain but finds it difficult to put the rest of what happened that day into words.
When he pauses, Alaine says, “I’m so sorry, Lucas as uncontrollable tears pool between her cheek and his bare chest.
“You didn’t do anything, Ali,” he says. “And it was a long time ago,” he adds to let her know that he’s okay. “That’s what I was dreaming last night,” he confesses. “I don’t think they’re dreams," he amends. "They’re more like memories. It feels like I’m in a place, caught between sleep and wakefulness. They just replay and I’m suspended in the middle and I can’t get out.”
“How bad was it?” Alaine asks.
“It was pretty bad, babe,” he admits. “I woke up every day wondering why I’d survived the last and whether or not that was the day he would kill me.”
Alaine’s shoulder’s shake with her tears and Lucas pulls her closer in his arms.
He should stop using her as a confessional. They should enjoy this last night together. For some reason, he can’t stop the play button his brain hit and the words keep spilling out of his mouth.
“I think she was a good mother once,” he says. “I remember her kissing me and calling me her beautiful son. But that was when she was still with my dad. Once they separated everything changed. I never understood how she could just switch off like that,” he continues pensively. “I mean, had it all been a pretense?”
Each word he speaks cracks Alaine a little further.
“Bet you didn’t know I have an acute eidetic memory,” he informs her.
“I have no idea what that means,” she sniffles.
“It means, I remember almost everything,” he explains. “So I remember the good but even if I do, the years of the bad overshadows how it used to be. But she’s still my mom, Ali,” he reasons. “I don’t want anything to happen to her.”
Unsure of what she should say, Alaine only holds him tighter. That’s all she can give him because her relationship with her own parents has been non-existent for the last four years. If someone told her one of them died tonight, she’s not sure if she would be broken up about it.
The thought of them falling onto misfortune doesn’t stir an ounce of emotion in her. So what helpful advice can she give Lucas?
None is the answer.
As if sensing her silent debate, he says, “we don’t need to talk about this. I just really don’t want to go. I know that’s bad because she’s my mother but I’d much rather stay here with you.”
That confession makes her smile. Jokingly she reminds him, “you do have me for the next six months.”
“That is true, Ms. Knight,” Lucas says. “What do you want for these six months?”
“You’re the boss,” she tells him. “what do you want?”
“Right now?” he muses. “I can think of nothing better than your lips. Kiss me, Alaine,” he orders softly.
It’s such an easy request to fulfill that she’s up on her elbow pressing her soft lips against his before he’s finished getting the words out.
The salty taste of her tears filling his palate should probably sadden him but it doesn’t. He takes them as a symbol that she cares. He sips on the rivulets as they continue to spring from her eyes to get lost between their lips. Somehow, it makes this kiss much sweeter.
He lies there on his back with one hand palming her face and the other perched on her waist and enjoys her slow exploration of his mouth.
She uses her lips to part his and Lucas can’t help but smile at how expertly she accomplished that. Once her tongue brushes against his, he rolls her onto her back so his body is suspended above her.
Using his knees, he parts her legs to accommodate his place between them and takes control, driving their kiss until they are both out of breath.
“I haven’t shared these things with anyone,” Lucas admits when they come up for air. “Not even with my father. There’s something special about you, goddess," he determines.
Whatever that something is, it has already taken control of him.