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Something Borrowed
by shalott

Three months after they get to Bisbee, Bud's walking without more than a slight limp, and his jaw doesn't hurt him when he chews anymore. They buy a house, two rings, and set a date: it won't be a big wedding, but her sister will be there, husband and two kids in tow. Bud likes Mitch okay; they can sit and watch football together without having to talk, but Eliza never asks Lynn anything about L.A., or how they met, and he feels silent disapproval radiating from her. It's not meant for him; it bothers him anyway.

Exley drives down for the week; he's going to be the best man. The house is small, so he stays at a cheap motel nearby. The night before the wedding, he and Mitch take Bud out. They go to a strip club, because that's what you do, and the two of them take turns paying girls to give him lapdances. An hour and five drinks in, Ed leans over to put another couple of singles in the current girl's waistband, and he puts his hand on Bud's thigh. It's not exactly accidental, because he gives Bud just a split-second glance before he does it, a thoughtful, measuring look; like he's weighing the odds.

Bud quits drinking and says he's too run down to make a whole night of it and not fall flat on his face in the aisle tomorrow. Mitch buys the excuse, which is what matters. Bud gets into Ed's car when they go back outside. His tux is already in the trunk. Lynn doesn't give a damn about superstition, but Eliza made a big deal about it; end result is, he's spending the night at Ed's hotel so he doesn't see Lynn before the wedding.

Ed goes right past the motel and drives about twenty miles into the desert, middle of nowhere, and kills the lights and the engine. They fuck in the back seat like animals, grunting and sweating. The sex isn't better than with Lynn, exactly, it's just more believable. This is the kind of thing that could happen to him, that he could have: panting with his head jammed up against the door handle and his leg hooked over the back of the seat while Exley fucks him sore. He doesn't have to spend half the time wondering if this is really happening or not.

It doesn't matter that Lynn's an ex-hooker, and he knows it. What matters is, Lynn's ten times as beautiful as any other woman in the whole town, brunette or blonde, and he's a gimpy ex-cop with a pension that's going to start feeling pretty small when the kids come along. When people look at them, no one's wondering how Lynn hooked him. It doesn't piss him off, because he agrees with them. He isn't sure what he did right, and he's not sure how to keep doing it, and half the time it seems like someone upstairs just made a weird mistake.

This is different. Ed may be a captain, but that's just a fucking piece of paper from the brass; under the uniform and the civilian clothes they both know they're equals, and more than that, they fit together. Something Ed's working on proving right now. Bud groans and shoots come all over himself; Ed comes inside him.

They go back to the motel and they end up fucking again there; Ed puts his face in the pillows and makes a lot of unintelligible noises, begging for things that Bud does his best to give him. Afterwards they smoke a few cigarettes and drink some scotch. The sky's getting light outside; in a few hours it'll be time to get dressed for the church.

"Christ, I miss you," Exley says.

It sounds stupid or sentimental, but Bud knows what Ed means. They were working together for a day, and it was the best work either one of them has ever done, will ever do. They were magic together, two halves of one real honest-to-fucking-god cop, and it's not something either one of them is ever going to forget. There's no way not to want that back; this is just a half-assed substitute. Sex isn't what they really want from each other. What they want is to put themselves back together. Get up in the morning at the same time, work at the same desk, drive around in the same car, cover each other's back, finish each other's thoughts, climb inside each other's skin. Sex isn't much next to that; they'd probably never have fucked if they were still in L.A., working together.

But he's got a pension and a limp and he's about to get a wife. He's not going back to L.A. anytime soon, and he wouldn't be able to get his job back if he did. It's not going to happen. Instead Exley will drive down every couple of months and take this cheap motel room again; Bud will find some excuse to be out of the house all day, then he'll drive over and they'll spend the day fucking.

"Yeah," Bud says. "You want to do me again?"

It's the best they can do.

= End =

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