A/N: Sorry for the long wait. Here it is, the final chapter, complete with adult stuff (hence the M rating). ;-) Thank you all for reading!
Disclaimer: This chapter's all mine! The rest of it (aside from Haley) isn't.
The day Kirby was finally released from the hospital, Haley was there to give him a ride home.
"Thanks again for the lift, Timpson."
"No prob. Besides," she grinned, "the cops still have your car impounded."
Kirby groaned. He sensed hours of pain-in-the-ass forms and red tape in his future. He decided to change the subject to something a little more uplifting. "How've things been at the Vogue?"
"Things are awesome. We finally got all the seats reupholstered. And we've been showing Carnival of Souls. Had a pretty good turnout for that."
"Great. Add anything to your bug collection?"
Her expression darkened. "Uh, no. I haven't been clipping out cigarette burns since...y'know."
They fell into an uncomfortable silence. Then Kirby shifted in his seat.
"Dude, you okay?"
"Yeah. Stitches are itching like a bitch."
Haley smirked. "Poor baby. Want me to kiss 'em and make it better?"
Kirby snorted. "I'd rather bum a joint off ya."
"Sorry, fresh out. My boss hasn't been around to sign my paycheck." She threw him a mock glare.
Kirby threw up his hands in apology. "Next time I'll make sure to hold off on getting shot 'til after payday." Something occurred to him. "What about the part-timers."
"Relax. I gave 'em some tide-over money from the petty cash. Nobody's quit."
"What the hell would I do without you, Timpson?" Something in his voice drew Haley's gaze to him. Kirby was relaxed in the passenger seat, his head leaning back into the headrest and turned towards her. He was looking at her with a faint smile on his face and for some reason his expression made Haley feel a blush coming on. Embarrassed by her reaction, she quickly turned her attention back to the road.
Kirby inherited his house from his mother when she passed away almost ten years ago. It was a small two-bedroom ranch with an attached garage. Haley pulled up to the curb and put her car into park while Kirby unbuckled his seatbelt. "Wanna come in for a while? Maybe watch a movie or something?"
Haley looked at him in surprise. Up to now their friendship had always been restricted to the theater. "Uh, you sure? I kinda figured you'd wanna get some rest."
"Resting's all I've been doing lately," he grimaced. What he didn't say was that he really didn't want to be alone. He had an underlying sense of dread ever since he was hospitalized. The only time the feeling went away was during Haley's visits. It was bad enough in the hospital, with plenty of nurses and doctors just a call button away. But on his own in that empty house...he really didn't want to think about it. "C'mon, I think I still got some microwave popcorn and we can watch Little Shop of Horrors," he offered in a tempting voice.
Haley quirked an eyebrow. "The original black and white or the musical?"
"Whichever you want."
Haley seemed to mull it over. "I'm kinda in the mood for a musical."
Kirby barely kept his laughter in check while Haley sang along with Steve Martin about the sadistic delights of modern dentistry. She waved her arms in imitation of the actor's poses, almost knocking the popcorn bowl of her lap a couple of times until Kirby finally grabbed it and set it on the coffee table.
"Sorry," Haley laughed, "Just can't resist chiming in when this scene comes up."
"Don't be sorry. It's kinda cute."
"Cute?" She wrinkled her nose. "Dude, I don't do cute."
"Right." Smiling, Kirby absently reached over and tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. Both blinked in surprise at the gesture. Kirby looked away, embarrassed. "Sorry."
Haley felt another blush coming on and pretended to study her watch. "Um, it's getting kinda late. Maybe I'd better go-"
"But the movie isn't finished yet." Kirby winced at the hint of desperation he heard in his voice and hoped Haley didn't notice.
Haley hesitated. She really didn't want to leave, but knew if she stayed she'd sooner or later blurt something she could never take back. They'd both been through one hell of a traumatic experience, Kirby especially, and jumping into anything that'd change the dynamics of their relationship would be a huge mistake. A friendship-wrecking mistake. And she loved his friendship too much to risk it.
She rose from the couch. Kirby stood as well. Facing him, she saw in his pleading expression a whole mix of emotions. Fear, loneliness, confusion, longing, all slowly giving way to sad acceptance. Kirby opened her mouth, not sure what she was going to say. Maybe make a joke about her boss being a hardass about her showing up for work on time. She never knew for sure. Before she could say anything her vision was suddenly overwhelmed by an image of a flaming circle, like the burning corona of an eclipsed sun. It lasted barely a second, but it left her reeling from its intensity.
Kirby staggered back a step and doubled over, hands clutching the sides of his head. "God. No, no, no, no, this can't be happening. It's supposed to be over!"
"Kirby? Wha-" It happened again, more powerful than the first time. Haley gasped and stumbled. "What am I seeing?" she whimpered, "What's happening?"
Kirby looked at her with wide, terrified eyes. "You gotta get the fuck outta here, Timpson."
Scared as she was, Haley didn't want to leave him like this. "But-"
He grabbed her arm and shoved her towards the door. "Go! Get away from me, Haley! Run!"
The panicked thought kept running through his head: every time. Every time he saw those fucking cigarette burns something awful happened to whoever was near him. Something that maybe he did without remembering after. He couldn't bear the thought of Haley being the next victim of this curse. It would break him.
Haley was close to tears. She still wasn't leaving, goddamn it. She was reaching out to him. "Kirby, I ca-"
The cigarette burn overwhelmed their senses. There was an image in its black center, Annie's face. But she didn't look the same as the last time Kirby saw her in these visions. She wasn't covered with blood or tears, screaming or weeping. She was smiling. "You'll always be my 'sweet man', Kirby," she said tenderly, "I love you."
Her face morphed into a serene image of the Willowy Being. "Thank you," the creature said, just like he had back at Bellinger's mansion. Then everything faded into total darkness.
Kirby woke from what felt like a long and restful sleep. He heard the sounds of early morning traffic outside his window. He was curled up in bed, in a cozy cocoon of blankets. And he wasn't alone.
His eyes flew open. Inches from him was a mass of curly brown hair. He and his bedmate were spooned together, both his arms wrapped around her, one of his legs tucked between hers. The only way they could've been any closer was if they weren't wearing any clothes. But they were, thank god. Apparently, the only thing they'd removed was their shoes. Relieved flooded through him when he realized he could feel her breathing.
What the hell happened?
Haley stirred, took a deep breath. Kirby knew he should've pulled away from her, but for some reason he couldn't bring himself to do it. Truth was, he hadn't felt anything this nice since...since someone else shared this bed.
Haley's body tensed in his arms as soon as she was aware of the situation. Kirby reluctantly loosened his grip as she turned over to face him, but still kept his arms around her. He didn't let himself question why.
Now facing each other, the two of them blinked in awkward silence until Kirby finally muttered, "Good morning."
"Morning?" Haley frowned in confusion. "What the hell happened?" she asked, echoing his earlier thought.
"I don't know," he answered honestly.
Haley's gaze shifted as she struggled to remember. "I was starting to leave. Then I saw..."
"The cigarette burns."
"Y-yeah. And in one of 'em, the last one, there was that guy. That weird albino looking dude from the mansion."
"I saw it, too."
She looked at him again. "I don't remember what happened after that."
"Me neither. That always happens after I see the cigarette burns. The blackouts. Then I wake up and-" he swallowed. "Are you okay?" he whispered, almost afraid to hear the answer.
Haley nodded. "Yeah. You okay?"
"Yeah." He sighed in relief. Haley didn't say anything else as he gazed at her for a long moment. It didn't make sense. They both saw those fiery circles and blacked out, but nothing happened. Nothing except that she stayed. More than that, really. She slept in the same bed as him, as if she'd been their to comfort him through a rough night. Was that all that happened?
"Dude, I'm pretty sure, given the situation and all we've been through, you earned the right to call me Haley."
Kirby smiled at her words. Haley always liked his smile, infrequent though it was. It made him look like a bashful kid. Sadly, it quickly faded. "I'm sorry," he murmured.
"Everything. For getting you into this. For almost getting you killed," he swallowed, "For whatever the hell I might've done to you last night that I can't remember."
Haley frowned at this. "What makes you think you did anything bad? I mean, we're both in one piece and we still got our pants on."
Kirby snorted in amusement. "Maybe that's what I'm apologizing for," he joked.
Haley laughed, her face flushed.
Kirby's eyes widened. "Holy shit, you're blushing!"
"Shut up! I am not." She turned her head to bury her face against the pillow.
"Yeah, you are." Kirby suddenly pinned her onto her back. He grinned down at her. "You're blushing like a girl."
"I am a girl, dumbass!"
"No shit? How'd I miss that?" He tugged up the hem of her shirt as if about to peek under it. Haley slapped his hands away and Kirby grabbed her wrists and pinned them on either side of her head, both laughing childishly. Once the moment calmed Kirby's expression turned solemn. "I saw something else last night."
"What?" Haley asked.
"I saw Annie. In the cigarette burns."
"Oh," she muttered, not sure how else to respond.
"I think...she was saying goodbye."
"Oh." Haley winced at her continued one-syllable answers. "Um, you okay?"
Kirby thought about it for a second, then he smiled. "Yeah. I think so."
"I'm glad," she said, and meant it.
Neither one of them spoke again for a long moment. They gazed at each other with a growing sense of intimacy, both from everything they'd experienced together and their positions now, Kirby still pinning Haley to the bed. They should have felt uncomfortable with this, but they didn't. It felt right, somehow. So right that when they kissed, neither could say for sure who started it. It was a brief kiss, each feeling the softness of the other's lips. When it ended, they stared at each other in mild surprise.
"Wow," Kirby murmured.
"Yeah." Haley slipped her wrists free of his loose grip and brought her hands to the back of his head, pulling him down to her. She was shocked at her boldness as she crushed her mouth to his. If she was honest with herself, she'd wanted to kiss him like this for some time, but never worked up the nerve. For one thing, while hardly a virgin, Haley never initiated the first move. For another, it wouldn't have felt right with Kirby for so many reasons. He was her boss, her friend, and he was still feeling the loss of Annie. But now none of these things seemed to matter.
Haley ran the tip of her tongue along the seam of his lips. Kirby's mouth parted in response and he shoved his own tongue into her mouth before she had a chance to do the same to him. Haley uttered a surprised sound and fought his tongue for dominance. Her fingers tangled in his light brown hair and she pulled aggressively on the strands. Kirby grunted and bit her lower lip in response.
Both abruptly sat up and flung away their shirts. They were almost frantic, knowing if they paused they would start second-guessing themselves. Haley quickly unhooked her bra and tossed it aside. Her body was shockingly beautiful underneath her habitually baggy clothes. Like a hidden treasure. Petite and curvy, small round breasts with large areolas. Moles speckled her light skin and Kirby wanted to trace their patterns with his fingers and lips. He pushed her down onto her back once again and proceeded to do just that. Haley squirmed when he reached a particularly ticklish spot. She dug her nails into his shoulders and arched beneath him. "Kirby..."
He moaned at the way his name sounded coming from her. He worked his way back up to her lips and kissed her deeply. Her arms snaked around his neck as they explored each other's mouths. Their lower halves, still clad in jeans, slowly thrust against each other. The friction was both arousing and frustrating.
Kirby's hand slid down and popped the button on her jeans, then slowly unzipped the fly. Haley gasped as he slipped his hand under the waistband of her panties to cup her mound. Kirby moaned at the heat and dampness he felt against his palm. Then he shuddered when he felt Haley cup him through his jeans.
Without warning Haley did something that resulted in Kirby lying flat on his back and Haley now straddling him. She all but ripped open his jeans and freed his twitching cock. Before Kirby could react she dove in and took him into her mouth.
Kirby sucked in a rapid gasp of air. "Jesus fuckin' Christ, Timpson!" He gazed down in shock as she deep-throated him. Fuck, as long as it had been for him, and as incredible as this felt now, he knew he wasn't going to last more than a few seconds at this rate. He tried not to be too rough as he pulled her off him and dragged her back up to kiss her. The fingers of one hand were tangled in her dark curls while the other struggled to pull her jeans down past her hips. Haley wriggled out of them and tugged down his jeans as well. Kirby flipped them over so he was once again on top. Haley eagerly spread her legs and wrapped them around his waist, urging him close. Kirby hesitated as something occurred to him. "I don't have a rubber."
"It's okay," Haley assured him, "I'm on the pill, and I know I'm clean."
"Me too," Kirby said. The last couple of years he had the occasional one night stand, but they were few and far between and he always used condoms.
Haley grinned. "Then what're you waiting for?"
Kirby grinned back, then slowly entered her. Something changed then. The urgency they'd experienced up to this point faded into something gentler, more intimate. Kirby gazed down into Haley's deep eyes and slowly rocked his hips. They couldn't look away from each other. Everything they felt and left unsaid was written in their stares.
Haley ran her hands over Kirby's face, memorizing every well-loved feature through touch. Without breaking their stare, Kirby turned his head to kiss her palm. Then he grasped her wrist and brought it to his mouth. He felt the raised scar tissue under his sensitive lips and followed it down her forearm. Haley's breath caught at this unexpected gesture.
"I love your scars," he murmured, "They show me how strong you are."
Haley's eyes welled. "Kirby..."
He kissed her, and their thrusts deepened. Their bodies met with an audible slapping of flesh. Haley spread her legs wider and gripped Kirby's ass, urging him on with eager cries. The sounds mingled with Kirby's grunts. He wouldn't last long at this rate, so he reached between their bodies and started rubbing her clit with the pad of his thumb. He rubbed her in time with his thrusts, bringing her closer to the edge. Soon he felt her legs tremble, felt her inner walls squeeze until he could barely move. He moaned her name, "Haley...", and they tumbled over the edge together.
Haley slowly ran her hands over his back as he rested on top of her for a moment. His weight didn't bother her. It was actually sort of a comfort. After a while Kirby rolled off her, his soft member slipping out of her in the process. He lay on his back and pulled her close until her head was pillowed against his chest. He stroked her hair while they dozed contentedly for a few minutes. Finally, Haley's sleepy voice muttered, "Kirby?"
"Was this a one-time thing?"
Kirby's eyes stayed closed. "You want it to be?"
After a pause he heard a quiet, "No."
"Good." He kissed the top of her head.
Haley smiled and snuggled closer to him. "You think this is what he wanted? The albino guy? That why he made us see the cigarette burns one more time?"
Kirby thought about it. "I think giving us a nudge was his way of saying thanks."
"For bringing him the movie?"
"I guess he needed it before he could escape."
"So, it's over now?" Haley asked cautiously, "No more cigarette burns?"
Kirby searched inside himself. The heaviness he'd carried in his soul since Annie's death, as well as the growing darkness he felt since beginning his search for the film, was gone. He felt lighter now. He felt like he wanted to keep living. He coiled his arms around Haley and buried his nose in her hair. "I don't know," he replied honestly, "But one thing's for sure, I can't have you working for me anymore."
Haley's head jerked up. "What? Why the hell not?"
"'Cause we're sleeping together. You can't fuck your boss, it's immoral," he grinned, "So, I guess I'm gonna have to make you my partner."
Haley gaped. "Wait, so...that mean I got my own theater."
"Well, co-own, but yeah."
Her face split into a broad smile. "That is so bitchin'!"
Kirby laughed, pleased with her reaction. He was even more pleased when her head disappeared under the covers to show him just how appreciative she was.
They were going to be okay.