[ CW: strong language, sexual content ]
Marina’s big house was fairly quiet for the rest of the day, especially considering how many people were in it. The party spent most of the afternoon napping and getting cleaned up.
Some time after three o’clock, Em jolted awake and glanced groggily around the room until she remembered where she was. It came back to her slowly: the memory of crawling along the couch and flopping down onto her stomach between May’s splayed legs. May had been lounging there, reading the computer reference book Marina had loaned her; Em fell asleep with her arms wrapped around May’s middle and her face resting on her stomach as it rose and fell with each gentle breath May took.
“How long was I asleep?” Em asked. She peered up at May, who lifted the book she was still reading to peek back at her.
“Not sure,” May admitted. “Maybe an hour?”
Connor strode into the room carrying a basket full of fresh laundry.
“Do you guys mind if I fold in here?” he asked. “Rue’s sleeping upstairs.”
“Knock yourself out,” Em replied with a yawn, snuggling back down onto May who set the book aside and began combing her fingers lightly through Em’s hair.
Connor was almost finished his chore when a sleepy-eyed Rue wandered downstairs.
“Feeling better, love?” he asked when she walked up for a quick kiss and to survey his progress.
“Much better.” She smiled warmly.
Marina breezed into the room and grinned when she saw them. “Everyone’s surfacing! Who’s up for a drink or two?”
Without waiting for a response she unlocked a magnificent liquor cabinet and pulled out glasses. She then went to retrieve wine from the kitchen as everyone made their drink selection. Before striding back into the room she called up the stairs to the stragglers. “We’re getting drunk without you!”
Soon Jeremy and Priva joined them. They were disheveled, but it didn’t appear to have been from sleep. Em and May exchanged knowing looks when the pair passed them on their way to make their drinks, but they kept their teasing remarks to themselves.
“Oh, man.” Marina sighed happily, settling back with a very full glass of wine. “I can’t remember the last time I got drunk. I think I’m overdue.”
“We’re not getting drunk,” Connor laughed. “But don’t let us stop you.”
“For those prepared to party,” Em raised her glass of whiskey to Marina. “We salute you.”
They all clinked their glasses, a chaotic moment of reaching arms trying to make sure no one was missed, and toasted to being together, regardless of the circumstances.
For everyone but May and Em, the conversation flowed naturally, especially once the alcohol started to lighten the mood in the room. No one wanted to talk about the present and so those who shared a history dipped into the wells of nostalgia. They rehashed memories, retelling increasingly funnier stories until they gasped for breath between their laughter.
May and Em sat on the far end of the couch, edging closer with every sip from their glasses. At first they tried to stay cognisant that Jeremy was right there, regardless of the fact that he hadn’t looked at them once since entering the room. But as the whiskey worked its magic, they seemed to forget that anyone else was in the room. Em coiled an arm around May’s slender waist and nuzzled into the curve of her neck. She planted kiss after kiss – playful in the beginning, then slower and seductive as they worked through their second and third drinks – along May’s jawline and shoulder. Between kisses she’d whisper things in May’s ear that left her crimson-cheeked and giggling.
“One day I’m gonna buy us a big house like this one,” Em told May in a matter-of-fact, whisper-yell. “And you can just spend all day lounging around in fancy lingerie like the fucking queen you are.”
“Shhh, everyone can hear you.” May grinned and kissed Em to silence her.
Em replied by mumbling something against May’s lips that sounded a bit like, “I worship you.”
The only sign that Jeremy heard any of this was the subtle bouncing of his knee.
It wasn’t long after that May excused herself, slipping upstairs to use the washroom.
Jeremy didn’t realize Em had crept away too until he rose to fix another drink and found her missing. Squaring his jaw, he tried to focus on the promises he had made; one to Rue to try harder to be pleasant to the girls, made in the throes of gratitude that came with having survived his beating in the alley, the other to Priva. That afternoon she had made him promise to stop obsessing over the past – to see her, the one standing right in front of him. He had promised to try and it must have been enough for her; they made love for the first time in ages.
He thought of the sex, imagining the feeling of Priva’s silky skin under his and the look on her face as he moved between her thighs. Her moans of pleasure, her nails digging into his shoulders, the genuine happiness she radiated as they laid together afterward.
He reached out and took her hand. He could try.
“I know what we’re missing,” Marina announced, sitting up quickly. “Music!”
Priva snapped her fingers. “Didn’t you say Myles plays guitar now?”
“Yes!” Marina pointed at her, clearly into the direction Priva’s train of thought was headed. “It’s in his room!”
Priva looked to Jeremy expectedly. “Go get it, boo! Play for us!”
Jeremy blinked up at Marina. “Where’s his room?”
“Third floor. First door on your left.”
Without arguing – he was trying to be better, after all – he got to his feet and made for the stairs. He hadn’t realized just how much he’d had to drink until standing; his head swam with the early stages of his buzz.
As he stepped onto the second floor, Jeremy paused. To his right the staircase continued upwards. But to his left he saw the bathroom, open and dark. Across the hall was Em and May’s room, the door open just a crack. Everything was quiet.
That’s weird, he thought with a frown. He had been sure they had sneaked up here to fuck. A slight flurry of concern rose in his stomach.
Against his better judgement, he tiptoed toward the room. Perhaps they had simply passed out like a couple of lightweights. But what if they weren’t in there? He tried to push down the paranoid voice in his head, honed from years of fighting and fleeing, that screamed something might be wrong.
He held his breath as he peered through the miniscule opening in the door. From there he could see the bed, made and empty.
A sudden rush of movement took him by surprise as a pair of bodies tumbled into his line of vision from somewhere hidden by the door. Jeremy had to bite his bottom lip to keep from gasping out loud.
A tangle of peaches and cream; May had pushed Em up against the wall, kissing her fiercely. Their shirts had already been discarded, their hands were everywhere.
To Jeremy, the world seemed to fall away. He stood, paralyzed; knowing he needed to walk away but helpless to do so.
May dragged her teeth lightly against the tender flesh of Em’s throat. Head back, Em welcomed May’s assault with a breathy moan.
Kisses were peppered across Em’s collarbone as May groped under her lover’s bra with one hand and worked the button of her jeans with the other.
Get out of here, Jeremy’s brain shouted at him.
But he couldn’t. He was transfixed by the ecstacy on Em’s face as May’s hand plunged down the front of her pants and pressed into her warmth.
He knew that look, he remembered it perfectly. Her quiet noises of passion were exactly the same.
All at once, memories of when he was the one in May’s place came back to him like a crashing wave.
It didn’t matter what she looked like or what she called herself: Jeremy knew Audrey when he saw her.
At last he was able to tear himself away from the door. He staggered to the staircase and heaved a few deep and rocky breaths.
Go upstairs, he coached himself. Get the guitar. Go downstairs. Figure your shit out.
From down the hall, Em cried out softly.
Figure your shit out.
By the time the girls slunk back downstairs, the sitting room was filled with the sound of guitar strings and drunken singing.
“Welcome back, ladies,” Priva announced loudly, drawing everyone’s attention to the blushing pair as they slid back into their spot on the couch.
“Look,” May laughed, trying to come up with an excuse and failing.
“Listen,” Em said, with just as much success.
From his chair, Jeremy fiddled with the guitar pegs, adjusting the tuning. He didn’t look up as he launched into another song.
The notes were familiar. May recognized it as the song she and Em had performed at the flat in Luxton; the first song she learned to play herself.
“Hey!” She turned to Em, smiling. “It’s the song you’re always singing!”
But Em didn’t answer. She wasn’t smiling either.
Instead her gaze was fixed on Jeremy’s hands as they danced over the strings.
“Wait,” Em muttered, squinting. “How do you…”
Her eyes grew wide. “Oh, fuck.”
“What’s wrong?” Connor asked, glancing between Em and Jeremy.
“Imagine how surprised I was when you two started playing this song,” Jeremy said, his eyes still trained on his instrument as he finished the melody. “This, the song I wrote for Audrey.”
The final note reverberated itself into silence. No one spoke.
“She’s the only person I ever played it for.” Now he looked up. His eyes were cold.
“Isn’t that interesting?”
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