Andrew is still in hiding. Ever since his time in Park Slope Asylum he's been hiding in his mind. It's caused him trouble professionally and he's about to find out how it will affect his personal life.*
*This chapter contains strong language, girl scout cookies, no violence and some sex.
23. Pool Cues
"How did you manage this?" I had expected her to be pleased, instead her tone was wary. She stood behind an armchair and her hands gripped at the upholstery like a shield. Cookies are one thing.
I shrugged and put the cookies on the table with the coffee. I pulled out a chair and sat on the side farthest from where she stood. I found the room unnerving. It was a large space with no windows and too much furniture crammed in for too many people. It was like a cross between a student lounge and the rec room at Park Slope. "White asked me if the interview rooms made you uncomfortable." Which was his way of asking if they make me uncomfortable. I had jumped at the chance to talk to Carol without her hand chained to a chair and hot white lights shining into our skulls.
"You told him I broke out in cold sweats?" Very devious of you. I like it. She came around the recliner and took a seat at the table. The chair scraped against the floor and we both winced.
I took a sip of my coffee and pushed the plate of cookies toward her. "Something like that." Thanks, I think. No one's ever called me devious before.
She looked at me, eyes sharp, and then down at the plate. "I only caught half of that, Slick. I guess now you'll have to talk louder," she said a trace of a wink. They say I'll be able to mix with the population in a couple of weeks. Mixing with the population. I sound like a warder, she went on, too cheery. She took a cookie and dunked it in her coffee. She held it halfway in until the chocolate started to melt. When she popped it in her mouth she got a drip of coffee on her chin.
"Here," I held out a napkin and motioned toward my chin. "Coffee."
Her hand touched mine when she took the napkin and we both looked away. "Did you clear all of the other subjects out of the game room just for me?" The lights are better at least.
"Yeah. We had trouble getting them away from the pool table," I said and nodded toward the red felt table. It was battered from use but it made the room feel less institutional. I wanted her to remember that this was different than Park Slope. No way would they let those PS guys near a pool cue.
"Do you know how to play?" Carol asked and stood up. How long do we have?
"Another half an hour." I followed her to the table at a distance and left the expanse of felt between us so she could have her space. Somehow I'd become threatening without the harsh lights and handcuffs. "Enough time for a couple of games."
She smiled. "Good answer. Rack 'em up." I have to warn you, I was pretty good in college.
The rack was under the table and she was already rolling the balls toward me when I put it on the table. "Well, I'm terrible. You'll have a chance to show off." I slid the rack to the marker and lifted it so she could break. What's bothering you? I didn't ask so much as wonder.
There was no reaction to the question as she lined up the cue ball. "I'll break." Get the cookies, you're looking too thin.
There was a table near the pool table and I set the mugs and the plate on it. I'd forgotten the napkins. Carol, with a little wiggle, was breaking.
"Huh. None in. Your shot," she said with her hand on her hip, her eyebrows up in surprise. Better take advantage of it while you can.
I looked around the table for a likely spot. Red, stripes? No, the green. "How are you feeling?" I asked, surprised when I managed to get the ball in the pocket.
"You're not very subtle today," she said and leaned on her cue stick. Why not ask what's wrong?
I skipped the cue ball across the table where it ricocheted around until it ended up in the side pocket.
"Bad luck." She plucked the ball out of the hole with a smirk and went to the other end of the table to take her shot. She bent low over the table to aim and glanced up at me. Well?
My eyes slid away from hers and I noticed the way her shirt pulled away in the front. Is that a tattoo under your collarbone? "Well, what is wrong?" I asked and dropped my eyes to the felt.
Andrew, are you blushing? By the time I looked up her eyes were roving over the table for the next shot. I wasn't even sure she'd sunk one. "I'm annoyed at the delay, that's all. Now that I can't hear what they're thinking the docs and the techs are a lot less interesting to be around." I'm almost excited to meet the other degenerates you picked up.
I didn't want to laugh, it came out a cough and my eyes watered. "Oh," I managed, hands braced on the table. "I'm sorry." I should be coming more often.
She patted me hard on the back. "Just breathe." I wouldn't want the docs to think I'd offed you at the first opportunity. They'd take away my cable.
I was surprised to see her standing beside me after I wiped my eyes. "Sorry, you surprised me." Thank god you didn't do that when I was drinking coffee.
She shrugged, her hip against the table and her palms braced on the edge. "I shouldn't have said that anyway." Don't worry about me. I'm a big girl and I've been in much worse places.
I wiped my eyes with my thumb and coughed again to clear my throat. "I don't want to see anything happen to you. If there's a problem-"
Her face folded into a severe look that didn't suit her. "They're testing experimental drugs on me in a place with no windows and no chance of getting outside. What else is going to happen to me?" At least the food's better. She pushed away from the table.
"I-" I didn't know what to say. What could I say? She was worse off and it was my fault. "Carol, I didn't-"
"It's fine." She picked up her coffee and took a sip, her back to me. I know it's temporary, it only feels like forever.
I stood next to her, resting my hands against the edge of the table. My chest felt tight. "It's hard but it'll be worth it. I know it will." I watched her put the mug back down and settle her hands on the table next to mine. Don't give up. I buried the knowledge that she wouldn't be out as soon as she thought. There was no way that White or Forrest would put her on the standard schedule; they would want to observe her for a long time.
She put one of her hands over mine and leaned into my side. "I'm sure you're right." The Slope didn't have a pool table or decent coffee.
Her hand was warm and I could smell her shampoo where her head was against my shoulder. "I am," I said and shifted my hand to take hers.
She pulled back before I could more than twitch my fingers. She walked back over to the pool table. "Let's take advantage of these perks." Her tone was brisk. I'm going to get you in trouble if they have that on tape. She lined up another shot without looking at me.
I watched her dart around the table, glad that she made several shots in a row so I didn't have to move. I looked around the room for something to say. "I should go."
Her expression was surprised, the rest of her tense. "Ok," she said and set down her cue. This game was going to be a massacre anyway.
"I was supposed to meet Reva after I got back tonight." I felt better saying the name. Surer. She'll skin me if I'm late again.
Carol’s head tilted to one side. I see. I wouldn't want to keep you. "You better call Chip."
Of course she knew I was seeing someone, but tonight Reva's name felt like an excuse. "I'll be back tomorrow. I'm picking up a new assignment, putting together the op." Is there any- "Can I bring anything?"
She watched me with a faint frown line between her eyes, sure and unsure in turns. "Cashews. Unsalted." I hope you're not getting yourself in trouble here, Slick. Under the thought there was un-worded guilt.
"No trouble," I said too loudly. I felt ridiculous running away. I crossed the room and knocked on the door. I wanted to turn around and go back to the pool table and yet I was relieved when Chip opened the door to let me out.
"All set Agent Piken?" He eyed me with cool disdain. His admiration had gone out the window when he realized that these were visits, not interrogations. Can't he get a chick outside the lab?
I moved into his personal space. "She has another fifteen minutes and then she goes to lab six. You're going to make sure those boxes," I jerked my thumb over my shoulder to where the cookies sat, "get to her room." Put that in your report and I'll tell Kepler you spend all night in the monitoring room jerking off. I stopped myself short of threatening him out loud, though didn't move until he nodded.
"Yes, sir." He leaned into the doorway. "You've got fifteen, Matthews," he called across the room before shutting the door. Wonder what White and Forrest think about this, he wondered, defiant and watching my face for a reaction.
The comment hit low. "I'd be more worried about what they'd think about you and Lita the DNA tech in lab nine," I said, my hands fisted at my sides. They weren't even taping today. All you've got on me is what everyone already knows.
He went red under his freckles. "Yes, sir," he replied with fear instead of sarcasm. Holy shit, I didn't know anyone knew about that.
I turned from him, forced my hands to relax and walked down the hall at a measured pace. Even after I left Chip behind and turned two corners to the empty hall that led to the exit, I felt watched. I'd been feeling that way since the last op. That happens when it turns out someone is watching you. I swiped my card and presented my eye to the scanner. The door opened with its blast of colder air. I stepped into the elevator and thumbed the G button.
I'd been putting out feelers and I still had no idea who'd been in the garage that night. I'm going to have to be very careful. Watch my corners, feel out more. It was the only way to find anything without telling Craig that I'd been spotted. That was the last thing I wanted. He was sending me on all the ops I could want, picking up the pace. White must have been optimistic about Carol's progress.
I jumped at the frigid air when the elevator doors opened. The cold sliced through my light jacket. I fumbled with my card and dropped it because my hands were stiff with cold. I had to blink water out of my eyes for the scanner. Maybe Reva's flight got delayed with all that weather in Chicago. I might have time to take a nap after my shower. I yawned and shivered my way down the long quiet hall. I got my card in the first time and wiped my eyes again before putting my eye to the scanner.
The guard at the desk watched as I came out into the bright white of the ground floor. "Have a good night, Lou," I said and walked fast down to my office. I grabbed my briefcase without turning on the light and locked the door behind me. My report wasn't due until the following afternoon and I had no plans to touch it before morning.
There was no one to pass in the halls on the way to the car, the security team was with Smith and the lab graveyard shift was an hour into their shift. Behind the wheel I yawned wide enough to crack my jaw. I shook my head and pulled out of the parking lot. I rolled down all of the windows and the chill hit me hard when I got on the highway. I turned the radio on and put it up loud enough to hear over the wind.
My fingers tapped on the steering wheel in time with the music and I wondered what Carol did between treatments besides watch TV. White had put together a huge library of books and movies, I'd heard in passing that he brought in some game consoles, and the gym down there was as big as the one for the staff. But I had a mental image of Carol sitting at a desk in one of the sparse subject rooms, watching bad daytime TV and playing solitaire with a battered deck of cards. Maybe there's something you could bring her besides food. I couldn't think of anything that seemed right off the top of my head. I made the last turn toward the house and sighed.
Reva's car was in her driveway. No time. I frowned and pulled my briefcase out of the back seat. Her living room light wasn't on. If she hadn't seen me pull in I would at least have time to grab a shower.
I dropped my briefcase inside the door, hung up my coat and pulled my sweater off on my way down the hall. I didn't turn on a light until I got to the bathroom. I picked up the towels and shorts from my shower in the morning and balled them up. I turned the shower on and made the quick dash to the laundry room and back before the shower was too hot.
The doorbell and the phone rang at the same time. I started, slipped and caught myself on the soap dish. Most of the shampoo was out of my hair from dozing with my head under the spray so I ducked my whole head under for a second and turned the water off. "Just a minute," I called down the hall and hurried to dry off on my way to the bedroom. I missed a few spots and my shirt stuck to my chest and back when I pulled it on.
By the time I got back into the living room the message light was blinking. When I opened the door Reva was walking back toward her place. She stopped when she heard the door.
"I even tried to call," she said and held up the cell phone in her hand. Her eyes flicked down and then up. "I guess you were in the shower." She came back up the steps with an exaggerated sway to her hips. His hair's getting in his eyes. I wonder if he'll grow it out.
I swept my hair out of my eyes and stood to the side so she could come in. "Sorry I'm late," I said and shut the door behind her. Be tired, jet-lagged. I hoped as she slid behind me, arms going around my waist even as I locked the door.
"You're worth waiting for," she said and tipped her head back, inviting me to kiss her. He looks tired.
Even if I couldn't feel what she wanted I would've known by the way her fingernails were scratching at my lower back. As tired as I was, it was going to take a lot more than that to get me in the mood.
I took her face in my hands and kissed her slowly. I kissed her until she pulled away for air, her hands less urgent. "Did you get dinner yet?" I asked and ran my palms down her arms.
She nodded, the kiss still tingling on her lips. "Chicago. We got great salmon. You?" Man he can kiss.
I nodded. I couldn't distract her with food if she wasn't hungry. Her hands were in the waistband of my pants. No distracting that.
"How tired are you?" He can't be too tired. This is our last night together for weeks. Her thoughts were possessive and her fingers tightened against my hips.
It was true. It would be at least that long considering the pick-up schedule and her flights. "Not that tired." I kissed her hard and pressed her against the wall so she couldn't get her hands between us.
That didn't keep her from rubbing against me and raking her nails over my back.
Give me some time. I managed to get my hands under her shirt. I wasn't getting to her fast enough. "Bed," I said, needing to draw this out.
"What's wrong with right here?" She gasped when I nipped her neck hard enough to leave a mark. Her hips jerked against mine and I could feel her nails bite into my shoulders.
I moved to her ear and dragged my teeth over the tender spot behind it. "I can't use my mouth on every part of you here.”
That is so- Her thought degenerated into a shiver. "Yes," she said, and stumbled forward willingly when I pulled away from the wall. I tugged her along to the bedroom, not wanting to lose any momentum.
I found myself thrown back on the bed. I hadn't even felt her intention.
"Where did you want to put your mouth?" She stood between my legs and raked her fingers down my thighs.
I raised myself to a sitting position, my knees over the side, feet on the floor. "Everywhere." I grabbed her hand and tried to pull her down.
She twisted her wrist out of my grip and shook her head. "Not yet." She didn't smile, she showed her teeth. It was almost feral.
Before I could move to stop her she had my pants down to my ankles and stood back up, eyes on my dick. It was soft. Going to fix that. "Get the shirt off." It wasn't a request.
There was nothing to do but go along. I tugged my shirt up over my head. I'll get her naked and get a handle on this. I can draw that out, what, ten minutes? I had my shirt around my head when she took me in her mouth. My hips jerked and one of her hands was tight on my hip, holding it down.
That's it. She circled the head with her tongue and sucked harder.
I got half hard. Even a guy like me would with his girlfriend trying to suck him like a hoover. She didn't know that that was as good as it was going to get. If she didn't start touching herself I wasn't going to get further than half-mast.
I sat up enough to get one hand on her shoulder and another in her hair. It took more pressure than I thought it would to pull her away and up so she sprawled over me. "Get up here." I kissed her, sucked her tongue and unsnapped the waistband of her pants, buying time.
She let me flip her onto her back and work her pants over her hips, but her hands were free and went from my back to my stomach and lower. Come on baby. She smiled up at me. "I want to see you come for me." She evaded my kiss, eyes intent on my face.
Oh, damn. "Both of us," I urged, her pants down far enough that I could use my hands if not my mouth.
Her eyes bored into me. I felt the stare more than her hands on me. I tried to kiss her again. Even with my fingers in her and my thumb rubbing her clit, she pulled back to watch me.
Her body tensed fast but it wasn't helping. With her eyes on me I couldn't even keep the erection I had. I curled my fingers up and to the front, pressing instead of thrusting.
When she came she couldn't keep her grip on me, her hands dropped away and then came back up to grip my back hard enough to leave welts.
She shifted and I withdrew my fingers. I let her pull me down against her as she caught her breath. "You have great hands," she said into my neck. You're next. Our bare thighs were together. She shifted her leg against me and then reached down between us.
I caught her wrist in a firm grip and drew her hand away. "I'm sorry baby. I guess I am tired." Tired, exhausted, give me an out.
She let me settle her hand on my chest, disappointed and concerned. "Why didn't you say something? You didn't have to-"
"I wanted to. I'm more tired than I thought," I assured her. It's been a long week. I just want to go to bed.
I must have frowned because suddenly she was convinced that I was embarrassed about the whole thing.
I wasn't sure how I felt. I was relieved when she told me she had an early flight instead of asking to stay.
I walked her out and got back in bed, staring at the ceiling when I couldn't fall asleep. Maybe I had been blocking her. I didn't feel like I had been. I hadn't felt that way when I was picking up Smith either. But I had been. I'd been back behind my block and I'd missed whoever had been watching. That could be part of the reason Carol couldn't read you.
My mind shuffled over the problem of keeping her occupied. I closed my eyes and tried to picture what she'd done at the Slope. I could see her half bent over a battered blue table with a pen between her fingers and the sun through the windows making highlights in her hair. She was concentrating on the table, on a book, marking it with the pen. The answer came to me as I drifted off. I'll bring crosswords.