a wicked thing to do
The next night I was so cold and snappish to everyone that Shin actually made a bitchy cat noise at me. "Sorry," I said. "I've just been kinda freaked out lately."
They were both looking at me. One with guilt, the other with curiosity. I didn't want to look back at either, because just as Spike was able to sum Vicious and I up with one glance, I thought the simple act of eye contact would give it all away.
Give what away? All we did was kiss. Vicious and I weren't exactly going steady. True, I hadn't been with anyone else since I was with him, and I didn't think he was with anyone else either. He was a why-buy-the-cow-when-you-can-get-the-milk-for-free kind of guy. Variation in his exploits required additional effort he was never prepared to put in.
But God knows we weren't in love. Right? Of course we weren't. I cared for him a great deal and I was attracted to him, yes. Did that add up to love? Would I have to ask myself that if it did? No. No, I wouldn't. Not that I was an expert on the subject but if top 40 radio has taught me anything it's that being in love is a wham-bang-gee-whiz sort of endeavor. You just know.
Like that kiss last night, a tiny voice cried out inside me. I ignored it. Never happened.
Vicious almost laughed. "Have you been dipping into the company ink or something?" "Company ink" was sort of a like a code for our drug inventory, though it wasn't really code because everyone knew what it meant. Nickname, was probably more accurate.
Of course, dipping your pen into the company ink had another choice meaning as well. The joke was that a lot of the boys in the Dragons were almost more preoccupied with drugs than sex. Lovely coincidence, just the same. "I'm just...edgy," I sighed. "Landlord shot to shit last night, remember?"
"Well, snap out of it," Vicious patted my shoulder briefly. "Or your landlord won't be the only thing getting shot to shit tonight."
Actually, the evening turned out to be pretty slow. Vicious was having a meeting. He obviously didn't divulge the details because that was something he never did. But it was a setup very similar to my first hit. We were only to fire at the first sign of trouble. Amazingly, trouble never came. He just sauntered out of the building with a confident look in his face as he swung himself back into the car.
"And?" Shin asked.
"And nothing, really. I'm not sure what to make of this guy yet so I want to hold off. To be honest, I'm not sure who the hell we can believe."
"Exactly," Spike spoke up, his voice a little gruffer than usual. "So why don't we drop this revenge shit and hear the elders out?"
"Forget that," Shin snapped. "They led us like lambs to slaughter. I'm not trusting them with anything anymore."
Spike looked down, arguments still raging in his eyes that remained unspoken.
"What are you doing tonight?" Vicious leaned in and asked me. He wasn't asking me out. He really just wanted to know where I was staying.
"Same place, I guess," I sighed.
"Are you sure? No one else is going to be there tonight. The men and I are going to a stakeout over on the East side. We got a lead. There's no reason why you can't come. We could use you actually."
"Honestly, Vicious, I just want to be by myself tonight. If you legitimately need me that's fine, but..."
"No, we can handle it," Vicious said quickly. This was obviously annoying him. "We'll drop you off."
"Thanks," I patted his hand as they let me off a few blocks from the stoop. It was in that moment I began to regret the fact I never made any girl friends.
"Julia?" his voice came muffled on the other side of the door.
Spike. I couldn't believe it. They were supposed to be all the way across town. I couldn't even imagine how he managed to get away without rising suspicion. "Spike, you're not supposed to be here," I said through the door.
"We need to talk."
"What's with you and talking, anyway? Maybe you should take a few pages from your partner." The mention of Vicious made me suddenly uneasy, as I remembered one of the many other reasons this was very stupid. I could tell by his silence that he was thinking the same thing. I sighed and opened the door.
"I'm just gonna spit this out and then I'm gonna get out of here," he said quickly as he closed the door behind him. "You ready?"
I almost laughed. "Ok...go."
"We have a shitty profession," he declared, giving away the fact this was obviously rehearsed. "I know Vicious likes to go on about that working class hero crap, but we know better. So does he, really. So everyone has their little distractions, you know? Their little escapes. Some of us do booze, some of us do drugs, some of us do each other."
I huffed a bit, though I know he didn't mean that personally. Vicious and I were hardly the only people in the syndicate to engage in comfort sex. Maybe we were the only ones not to switch it up all the time but that was out of our own laziness more than anything else.
"But lately," he continued. "When I'm with you I don't feel the need to escape anymore. I feel like this life isn't all that bad. And I don't know why. But it's been a long time since I could sit in a room with someone and not be thinking of something else. So I wanted you to know that." He took a deep, awkward breath before blurting out, "I'm gonna go now." He spun around on his heels and practically bolted out of the house.
OK...this was so weird. I mean, it was Spike. I've known him forever. I never thought anything of him before, why was it suddenly so complicated now?
But then...I always thought of him. I always noticed the little differences about him, always watched as he interacted with everyone on the team. Always wondered what his story was, because maybe it was like mine. He was always there. He was always there and I could always talk to him, confide in him, joke with him in ways I couldn't with the others. Something inside me always noticed. And now my brain was catching up.
I tapped my foot on the floor for a few beats and then flung the door open. And there he was. He was still just sitting there on the stoop, rain matting his hair flat on his head. "What if I didn't open my door?" I asked him.
"I didn't think that far ahead."
Lunkhead. "Get in here," I shooed him in with a nod of my head.
We stood there staring at each other, a measurable distance between us as he formed a puddle in the center of the room. My mind was racing a mile a minute. This was so stupid. What would Vicious do? Could we tell anyone about this? What if he gets killed? What if I get killed? What would be the point? It's not like we can settle down with kids or anything. I was just setting myself up for heartache. What I had with Vicious was good. It made sense. It was apropos to the situation. This was the total opposite of everything I was taught. What was I thinking? What was he thinking? How long have we been standing here?
And then he kissed me.
Poof. Nothing else mattered.