Warning: coarse language and adult situations.

Chapter 5: The Velvet Fog

I looked at John in wonder and my eyes filled with tears.

"Why are you crying?" he asked. He really didn't know.

"You're being so nice," I replied, sniffling and wiping my nose with the back of a hand.

"And you think you don't deserve it, is that it?" he said, pulling me to him and squeezing tight as he gave me a shake.

When he loosened his grip again, he looked at me with his charming half-smile, tenderly brushing the hair away from my face and de-sticking the bits that had wrapped themselves around my nose and clung to the remnants of drying snot there. Even though I was pretty sure I was anything but glamorous at that moment, he kissed me, very lightly at first so I would accept it, then a little more insistently as I relaxed in his arms again and let him in.

By the time he had stopped, I felt a little more sure of myself again, and he gave me a stern look and said, "Darlene, you're very special. You welcomed me in here and made me feel comfortable, gave me a chance to relax and forget about some problems that were worrying me. You didn't ask for more than I can give in return. It may not be on the scale of world peace, but it means a lot to me."

"Thank you, John," I whispered, and I tucked my head under his chin and rested it on his shoulder as he wrapped me up in his warmth again.

"I just need to ask you for one more thing, though," John said, the humor coming through in his tone of voice.

"What?" I moved my head from his shoulder and tilted my face back to look at him.

"I'm hungry," he said. "Got anything in the fridge?"

Laughing, I told him, "Well, I guess you've earned it. Let's go," and we got up and went into the bathroom for a quick rinse-down in the shower before drying off and making our way to the kitchen for a snack.

After I unhooked my errant bra from the top of the blender where it had landed earlier, I pulled some sliced turkey and onion rolls from the fridge that I had bought at the deli down the street the day before. I made up the sandwiches with cheese and mayonnaise, lettuce and tomatoes and brought them into the living room along with a couple of bottles of beer – lunch at 3 a.m.! – and we sat down to eat as though it was a picnic.

If you've never shared sandwiches with a gorgeous naked man while sitting in the middle of the living room floor, I highly recommend it. A feast for the stomach and the eyes. I licked a dollop of mayonnaise from John's fuzzy tummy where it had dropped and he brushed crumbs from around my mouth with a gentle thumb. And we talked again.

"What were you saying earlier, you know, when I –" and I did the cock-in-the-mouth motion to indicate what I was referring to.

When he had finished laughing at my gesture, John said, "Oh, just a mantra."

"A what?"

"A mantra. For when I want it to last longer."

"Oh," I said. "Didn't work, did it?" I continued, raising my eyebrows, challenging him.

"I was up against an expert. I'll do better next time," John replied, taking up the challenge.

"And I'll hold you to that, mister," I said, sounding all bossy and officious.

There it was. What a reaction that one got. The female in charge thing. Yep, he definitely liked it, and he finished the last gulp of his beer, his eyes fixed unblinkingly on mine as he put the bottle down and said, in a very low and sexually suggestive voice, "Yes, ma'am."

The next thing I knew, I was flat on my back on the floor with a cushion under my head that John had put there. He was kneeling between my legs, placing his hands under my buttocks to raise my hips off the floor a bit, and he was heading for you-know-where.

"Wait, what are you doing?" I cried in astonishment.

"Dessert," he said, before his face disappeared into my crotch and his tongue into my vagina. I started out laughing a bit but that didn't last for very long as my laughter turned to moans. Reaching down, I caressed his head as he slowly outlined various anatomical features with his probing tongue. When he stiffened the end and stroked the front wall, I'm afraid I just about lost it and grabbed onto his ears, giving them a tug to keep him in place.

I heard a muffled "Ow," and eased up a bit, but I couldn't help moving around, flexing and extending my lumbar spine to try to get closer and beginning to moan again and breathe erratically.

Suddenly, I got an idea.

"Soldier, halt!" I barked out, the way drill sergeants did in the movies.

He reacted immediately, stopping his licking but leaving his head where it was.

"Inspection! Soldier, ten-hut!"

He jumped up and stood there stiffly, looking straight ahead. I did note, however, a glint of amusement in his eyes, so I decided I should continue.

And he really was at attention. I watched as his lovely cock waved in the air as though in a slight breeze, jerking around quite a bit while he stood there waiting for another order. Time for more fun.

"Soldier, present arms!"

John obviously had a very quick brain and as wicked a sense of humor as mine, already into the spirit of my little impromptu game, and he grasped his penis in his right hand, running his grip down and back up its length. He even made a loud clicking noise with his mouth to simulate pumping a bullet into firing position in a rifle.

"Armed and ready, ma'am!" he shouted out, still looking straight ahead, but now with a tiny quirk to one side of his mouth.

"Deploy troops!"

Obedient soldier that he was, he dropped back down and eagerly entered me, very quickly too, so that the rush of sensation almost made me pass out and forget to issue the next order.

"Troops, move out! Quick march!"

And he moved out, as ordered. Then, bless his heart, back in again, strong and hard, his excitement quickly building to a fever pitch as I told him in a firm, commanding tone what I wanted him to do.

I kept it up the whole time too, shouting out orders like "Faster!" "Slow march!" "Double time!" and making comments such as "Is that the best you can do, soldier?" which I think was the one that gave the most spectacular result. I had a little overachiever on my hands, it seems.

I wondered briefly who the "ma'am" on the other end of his phone conversation in the bar had been and offered up a silent vote of thanks to her.

Playing it out right through to the end, John, who was gasping and grunting in his heightened excitement and shoving hard and fast enough to push me into Mrs. Brewster's living room next door, finally yelled out, "Permission to come, ma'am?" and damned if the little dickens didn't manage to hold on for almost another minute as he continued his vigorous thrusting. I drew it out a bit longer than was probably humane and, when I couldn't hold back my own orgasm, finally croaked, "Permission granted, soldier!"

And he did. With a vengeance. I was afraid for a moment that he was going to give himself an aneurysm from the way he was straining. His palms were flat on the floor above my shoulders so that his arms held me in place, which helped him penetrate me as deeply as he possibly could, grimacing as he let out something between a long groan and a grunt that seemed to originate from somewhere around his toes.

And I think that's when I fell in love with him a little bit. Okay, a lot. Because I'd never been with a man who was willing to be vulnerable to me, to not only let me be in control but to welcome it.

It was ironic, under the circumstances, since I knew so little about him, but I felt as though I understood him much better suddenly, and there he was, his little emotional underbelly exposed, rolling over exhausted onto his back and taking me with him so I was lying on his stomach and chest, still joined together in that most intimate of human connections.

It was then I realized something very important. His problem was intimacy. Whether it was something that had happened in his past or, more likely, the demands of his job, he was emotionally cut off.

He had come into the bar, automatically suspicious and wary, apart from the rest of the world, never allowing himself to try to make emotional connections. He could open up a bit with me, a non-threatening stranger, but only for a while and only fully in response to a voice of authority that he respected. And because of that, he would never be able to achieve the comfort of a wife and family and friends and a community that stood by him and understood him.

So underneath the ability to adapt quickly to different situations and the apparent easy charm that made him seem a participant in normal human interactions, he was in reality always on guard, always ready to fight or run, never able to really relax and open up. He was so lonely and so alone, and nobody should have to live like that. I was pretty sure I knew now why he seemed so grateful for what little I was giving him.

When our breathing had gotten back into the range of normal, I gasped out, "I think you deserve a medal for that," and when he could speak again, he said, "It may have to be a Purple Heart," and we laughed feebly because we didn't have the breath or the energy to laugh any louder.

We hobbled to the bedroom and fell back on the bed, completely tired out. Getting under the covers and naturally curling into our snuggly position, we both fell into a restful doze.

When I awoke, John was still there, holding me gently. He had apparently been watching me sleep, and he wiped the drool from the corner of my mouth as I smacked my dry lips and tried to raise my eyelids.

I said the first thing that came to my mind, which, of course, was the obvious.

"You're still here."

"Yes, Darlene, I'm still here," he replied. And then he sighed and looked all serious again.

"You know that I won't always be here, right? That this is it?"

I reached up and placed my palm on his cheek, touched by the concern in his eyes, concern for my emotional welfare.

"I know, John, and that's the last thing you should be worried about."

He paused, and his brows drew together to almost meet over his nose as he tried to find just the right words to say next. He even opened and closed his mouth in hesitation before he decided how to express himself.

"I just wanted to make sure you truly understood that before I tell you something. I have a confession to make, Darlene."

I sat up and watched his face attentively, curious about what he was going to say.

"I've been playing house," he admitted, an embarrassed smile forming as his eyes darted to mine and away again.

"What do you mean, John?" I asked, even though I was pretty sure what he meant, since I had been doing the same.

"I mean," he explained, "I've been pretending that we're a couple and we take care of each other and it's not going to end in a few hours and – well, you know..."

"John, believe me, I know all about it," I reassured him, "and it's okay. Now that you've outed yourself, we can maybe play house together for a while. Would you like that?"

"Yes, I would," he answered, and his face lit up the whole room and just about burned out my retinas as I was treated to the full smile – sparkling eyes, full array of teeth on display, dimples and all – and it was even more powerful than I had imagined it would be.

I groaned and wiggled myself over and onto his belly and said in a low, throaty voice, "C'mere, papa, and give momma a big wet one," and he did.

We kissed and talked quietly, caressing each other and holding on as though we were glued together. After sleeping a bit more, we got up as the sun started shining strongly through the window and padded into the kitchen, making detours around discarded clothes in various locations in the apartment and the crumbs and beer bottles on the living room floor.

When we got there, I dug out an apron for each of us to wear so we could fry up some eggs and bacon. John insisted on wearing an old-fashioned apron with frills around the edges just so he could make me laugh, and I snorted and guffawed when he put it on since it not only looked ridiculous but it was also way too short. He made a great show of striding up and down the kitchen, his penis, which was sticking down below the bottom edge of the cotton, swinging majestically from side to side. He was such an endearing asshole, and I warned him that I wouldn't be responsible for any injuries caused by grease splatters.

We sat at the table in the kitchen to eat this time, and it was the best breakfast I had ever tasted, which was no surprise since I was famished from all the activity, and after we had finished we discarded our aprons and left the cleaning up for later, going back to bed where we made slow, tender love.

First, I got John to lie on his stomach so I could give him a bit of a back massage and so we could have a chance to digest our breakfast. The massaging only lasted for a few minutes as I realized for the first time just how many different scars he had on his body. I'm no forensics expert, but they seemed to run the gamut from knife cuts and slashes to bullet holes, even angry weals, still showing a bit red, that could only have been evidence of whip cuts.

I traced them out, first with my fingers and then my lips, and when he felt my tears falling onto his skin, John rolled over onto his back and held me to him.

"We're the walking wounded, Darlene, you and I," he said. "Only my scars are mostly on the outside."

I pulled away from him and had a look at the front. His baby toe was missing from the left foot. I kissed the tiny stub that looked as though it still had some healing to do and continued up his legs. His ankles had circular marks, probably from being tied tightly. Underneath the hair on his calves and thighs I could make out several knife cuts and a couple of bullet holes and one long slash on the outside of his left thigh that looked like it had started healing before being hastily stitched up and then opened again after the fact for repair.

He lay there and let me check his groin. There were some marks I couldn't identify on and around his scrotum, and when I looked at him, he simply said, "Electrocution," which made me start to cry again. I continued on with my inventory, sniffling loudly now, and found similar marks around his nipples, along with more knife scars and a bullet hole just below his left shoulder. There was a mark on his upper right arm that almost looked like it could be –

"Acid splash," he supplied, and I nodded sadly.

Even his face hadn't escaped, and there was a strangely patterned scar, almost completely faded now, high on his left cheek.

I put a hand to each side of his face and looked into his eyes through my tears.

"Poor you," I said, and kissed him, trying to convey my sorrow at his suffering.

We kissed tenderly and there was heat but no urgency this time as we smoothly rolled and he entered me. We seemed to be in tune, moving to the same internal pulse like two dancers in a very old and very practiced dance. When he came, it was strong but sweet, and we looked at each other, feeling the connection between us, which gave me a kind of orgasm I had never had before, one that cleared my mind and made me feel like a vital, living being. We smiled at each other and John's eyes were glistening a bit as he withdrew and held me close, kissing me gently on the forehead.

We lay there not moving and not talking, simply savoring what had just happened between us.

But all good things must come to an end, apparently, and now was the time, so we got up and had another quick shower before returning to the bedroom. John re-armed himself and dressed from the pile of clothes on the floor and I selected fresh clothes from the closet and pulled them on before combing my hair a bit.

He shrugged into his shoulder holster, then his jacket, and as though we had discussed it earlier and had already come to an agreement, we simply held each other for a few moments, kissed lightly one last time, and he was gone.

I thought I saw him one day about a month later. I was driving along Burbank Boulevard, stopped at a traffic light in front of the Buy More Plaza, when I glanced out the side window and my heart jumped into my mouth. He was a long way away and I told myself it probably wasn't him, but my intuition was telling me that it was. He was wearing the bright green polo shirt of the Buy More sales staff and standing on the pavement outside the front door of the store, fists on hips, head on a slight angle as he appeared to be arguing with a tall, slim blonde in an Orange Orange costume and a tall, skinny dark-haired man in the Buy More Nerd Herd shirt-and-tie outfit. The skinny man was throwing his arms around in the air and John – if it really was him – looked like he was doing a slow burn.

I was completely absorbed in this little melodrama, and as the blonde reached out and put a hand on John's arm, which he jerked out from under her touch, I jumped up in the air a bit at the sound of car horns blasting from behind me, apparently because the traffic light was now green. The racket caused the little trio to look in the direction of the noise and I got another shock. I don't know if it was my imagination or wishful thinking, but I could feel a jolt of electricity run between me and the tall salesman in front of the Buy More, and I just had time to see him startle and take his fists from his hips, his demeanor saying he was on full alert, before I had to turn my head to the front and drive away.

It was difficult for a couple of days after that, but I finally decided to not go there again and see if it really was John. It wouldn't help either of us and I guessed might even put his life or mine in danger. When I figured this one out, it gave me another insight into what his existence must be like and what he was sacrificing so the rest of us could have our dull, boring but safe lives.

So in the end, Willie had been wrong when he said John Casey would break my heart. My heart was different because of him but not broken. It had healed, gotten stronger, beat a little more surely. And it was whole. John hadn't taken it with him. But there was a part of it that would always have his name on it, whatever that name might be, and if he ever did happen to show up in my bar on another dreary, rainy night, he would be welcome to make himself at home there again.