Scorching my seared heart with a pain, not hell shall make me fear again.
Edgar Allen Poe (Tamerlane, Part II)
This is so royally fucked up, he thinks as the atmosphere is sucked out of the room. He’d known this little dinner party/confessional would end in disaster – throw together such a diverse bunch of people and there can be no other outcome – but despite his expertise in the field of messed-up situations, he honestly had not seen this one coming.
Hank can see Mia’s smug little grin in his peripheral vision and he wants to say or do something to wipe it off but his mind is blank; not even a ‘fuck off’ comes to the forefront, the phrase he uses as a yardstick and comparative measure for all other retorts. The knee-jerk response to annoying stimuli is absent and for a moment he finds this as shocking as Sonja’s news. His brain is stuck on the possibility of him being the father – he hates the irony; he just had a vasectomy, for God’s sake – and it repeats in his head like a needle caught in vinyl grooves. It is etching itself under his skin like a drunken tattoo; he already regrets everything leading up to this moment, to her pregnancy. Just when things were finally going right, someone had to throw a curveball.
He keeps his head down and refuses to make eye contact with anyone sitting around the table because he knows he won’t like what he sees. Charlie and Marcy are too high to have any concept of what has been said but their incessant giggling is so out of touch with reality Hank doesn’t know if he welcomes it or loathes it. He can feel the waves of delight rolling off Mia to his left as she hides her smile behind a glass, and Sonja is saying something but it is as though he is underwater and it comes out garbled – haven’t you said enough for one night? he wants to ask – but he doesn’t really care anymore. The damage has been done, so to speak, has been for weeks if she is to be trusted. He wants to kick himself for being so stupid; he wants to pinch himself to make sure he really is awake.
The scrape of chairs alerts him to Becca’s and Damien’s exit; Karen slips away a few seconds later. Great, so now he’s left with Hugh Hefner and his date, two rejected extras from Trainspotting, the Scientologist he unwittingly knocked up, a new-age Buddha, and the devil’s daughter.
It just doesn’t get any better than this.
And then the record starts playing properly and his sky falls down and for a brief moment he feels like Chicken Little; ever since he arrived in Hell-A he has done nothing but shout and scream that it is Satan’s paradise and everything will turn to shit if they stayed, but nobody believed him then and now it is too late. Saying ‘I told you so’ wouldn’t make him feel any better so he refrains and instead holds his aching head in shaking hands to avoid further confrontation and surprise. He knows he should go to her but there is nothing he can say to make it hurt less and he is pretty damn certain she would unleash her inner bitch on him if he tries to touch her. He learned that one the hard way.
The look on Karen’s face at the time of the revelation is permanently burned into his memory. Yet another scar. He collects battle wounds.
* * * * *
I still believe in Hope - mostly because there's no such place as Fingers Crossed, Arkansas.
He fucks her hard back at his apartment. They tumble and fall onto the mattress as soon as they get inside, leaving Sonja and Julian and their new addition to bond and fight and make up again (the cycle is oddly familiar). The bedsprings groan heavily in protest of his rough thrusts but she arches underneath him in time with her exotic moans and breathless gasps. She grips his broad shoulders and digs her nails into his back, wrapping her legs tightly around his waist to ensure maximum body contact, which he willingly gives her. He’ll give her anything she wants; he’s already dug out his lasso so he can tug the moon down when the night falls and it is big and round in the sky. It is hardly original but it worked for Jimmy Stewart.
He pounds into her, their slick bodies sliding together with ease and years of experience, and she looks at him with so many emotions in her eyes it would take a lifetime for him to read them all. He moves to kiss her. This is Hank’s version of a sigh of relief.
Romantics tend to believe a reconnection should be slow and sensual; Hank and Karen pour all their anger and stress into primal desires in order to let it all go. There’s no room for animosity in their post-coital bliss. When they love, they love hard. When they fight, they go all out. No point in doing anything half-heartedly, skirting around the core to avoid hurting each other’s feelings. Hank knows she feels the same sense of freedom he does, like an eight-pound four-ounce weight has been lifted from their shoulders.
He buries his cock inside her over and over again, hard and quick and deep, and he hears the blood thundering in his ears like waves crashing and breaking on a rocky shore. She writhes under him, emitting a stream of satisfied ‘oh, oh, oh’ noises with every brush of his fingers against her clit, pinching his skin and leaving crescent-shaped indentations on the back of his neck as she climaxes. She holds him tightly as he comes and his muscles start to tremble from exertion; she presses a kiss to the side of his sweaty forehead. He knows he is forgiven.