Circus Freaks

She knew opening the door was a mistake. He just looked so dejected. She'd heard about the fire on the news. She knew it was his circus. She knew he'd lost people. She knew he'd blame himself, so she let him in, all the way in, again. He collapsed to his knees and sobbed on her lap. He's not really the sobbing sort. Not so you can see anyway. What could she do? What choice did she have? She didn't have a choice. There was no choice.

"It's okay, it's okay." Barbara leaned over him and let him sob as she stroked his back. "It wasn't your fault. You did everything you could."

She wasn't sure how long they were like that. It was long enough for her to notice the reek of smoke and sweat that clung to his clothes and hair, long enough for her back to start to ache from hunching over.

"Come on, Dick," she finally said, "follow me."

He stood and followed her without question, without speaking at all.

She rolled into the small room off the gym where the whirlpool was. She leaned over and started filling it with water. She dumped in ginger lime bath bubbles and turned back to him. He was wearing his leather motorcycle jacket and pants with his heavy black leather boots. She tugged on the sleeve of his jacket. "Come on, let's get you out of this stuff."

He moved like a zombie pulling the heavy leather jacket off and dropping it in a heap. She was surprised to see the neon green top of acrobat's leotard underneath.

Oh my God. He was flying.

When the thick leather pants followed the jacket to the floor, she knew she was right. He'd been on the trapeze. He kicked off his boots and stood there as though he wasn't sure what to do next.

Barbara reached up and pulled the strap off his right shoulder. "Don't be shy," she said. "This too."

She picked up his leathers off the floor and tried not to watch as he pealed the spandex suit from his body. She took the leotard from him. "In the tub."

She rolled back out to the foyer and hung up his leathers. There wasn't much she could do to clean them, but at least hanging them might air them out a little. She rolled back to the laundry room and put the leotard in the wash, and went back down the hall to the gym.

She found him kneeling in the center of the tub just staring at the wall. She started to call his name, thought better of it, and turned off the water instead. He didn't seem to notice.

Are you going to do this like we always do this or not?

The way his hair was dirty and matted and stuck to his head made her unbearably sad for some reason. She closed her eyes and pulled her sweatshirt over her head.

Damn. No will power.

The rest of her clothes followed her sweatshirt to the floor. She reached for the bar at the side of the tub and pulled herself to the edge. He didn't look at her as she slid somewhat awkwardly into the tub. She set her glasses on her wheelchair and settled on a seat behind him. She watched him for a moment, and then reached out and touched his shoulder. "Hey."

He slid silently through the water and pillowed his face against her breast.

"Shhh, I'm just going to wash your hair."

He nodded and rubbed his face against her.

She cupped water in her hands and brought it up over his head, time and time again. Finally she had it wet enough to wash, so she put freesia-scented shampoo on her hands and worked it gently into his hair. She took her time, rubbing the pads of her fingers against his scalp, working behind his ears and pushing her thumbs against the muscles of his neck. She loved how silky black his hair was, she loved how sculpted his body was. She had been around athletic men her whole life, but Dick was exceptional.

She began cupping water again and pouring it over his hair, marveling the whole time at his olive skin, his sculpted cheekbones, his full lips.

When she had finished rinsing his hair, he looked up at her with the most beautiful icy blue eyes, and the rest of her resolve washed away. She leaned in and touched her lips against his. That was all it took to lose them both. His body awoke to the situation, as did hers, and minds were turned off for the moment. All she knew was his body against her and the sound of the water slapping the side of the tub. When he picked her up and set her in his lap, she could feel the length of him slide inside her and knew that saying no to this again would be so much more difficult next time. When he spelled her name between her shoulders with his tongue, she thought it might be impossible. There was no way to brace herself in this position, no way really to participate, except to trust him. He shifted her hips for her, moving in and out of her slowly, taking his time. He held her tight against him as he shifted a hand between her legs, determined to bring her with him when he came. As they shuddered together, she could feel his arm around her waist holding her fast, but Barbara could feel herself slipping away.

He carried her to the bedroom and tucked her in bed. She watched as he found an old pair of his boxers in her underwear drawer and slipped them on. He curled behind her under the covers, all without a word. He was asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow, she could hear it in the evenness of his breathing.

Barbara was not asleep. She was naked and damp and needed to go to the bathroom.

It's your fault, she thought, why didn't you say to him, Dick I need my chair or how about toss me T-shirt. You kept your mouth shut because you didn't want to ruin the moment and you didn't want to ask for his help and now you've either got to wake him up or crawl naked through the hall to get your chair. God damn it.

It took her twenty minutes to make it down the hall. By the time she'd gone to the bathroom, cleaned up and gotten dressed, her resolve had completely returned. She put his leotard in the dryer and decided to let him sleep until 8:00am. Then he would have to go.

She rolled to the door of her bedroom and watched him sleeping, bathed in the moon light, he was perfect, beautiful, breath taking. She caught sight of herself in the full-length mirror on the other side of the room, and sighed. This wasn't going to work. This was never going to work. In the morning, he would have to go. She looked out the window at the moon. But there was still a lot of nighttime left. She rolled over to the bed and pulled herself in beside him. It couldn't hurt just to lie next to him for a few more hours. She would tell him to leave in the morning.