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Apology

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Vinnie had put himself to sleep at the bottom of a fifth of whiskey; it had blurred the inside of his head just enough he could close his eyes without seeing Karen Molloy's face, live-action video of the things that had probably happened to her before she'd died, except he was still blurry the next morning when Sonny banged on his bedroom door, yelling, "Come on, Terranova, get a move on; we've got a plane to catch."

He was halfway up the ramp before he realized he had no fucking clue where they were going, and halfway through a Bloody Mary Sonny had ordered for him before it occurred to him he should've called the lifeguard. "Where are we going, anyway?" he said, looking at Sonny. "You didn't say anything about a trip."

Sonny shrugged, so elaborately that Vinnie would've gotten wary, except Sonny was too visibly pleased with himself. "Yeah, well, I have a little business to do in Vegas; I thought we'd do the Strip, see the sights."

But it was Saturday, and Sonny's business never seemed to actually materialize; at least not anywhere between the airport and the blackjack table and the first-class dinner. After they got up to the penthouse suite and Sonny opened the closet on a pair of fresh tuxedos, Vinnie said, "Okay, give. What is all this?"

Sonny paused, working on his bowtie, and gave him a look in the mirror. "It's been a rough couple of weeks. That good enough for you or what?"

It took Vinnie a while to get it; he'd kept the buzz going all day, cocktails at the tables, bottle of wine at dinner, and he felt high and stupid all at once. And then when he did figure it out, he just blurted it, like a dummy. "Is this supposed to be some kind of apology?"

Sonny tossed his head like a restless horse, irritably, and shot his cuffs. "Don't push your luck," enough of an answer, and Vinnie looked away uneasily.

"Look, Sonny, you don't owe me—" he said.

"Shut up, all right?" Sonny said; good advice, and Vinnie took it, but it had come a little late, because Sonny paced the room a couple of times and wheeled around. "You know who doesn't owe you an apology, Sid doesn't. We both know he's a goddamn weasel looking for a chance to stick the knife in my back, and if he can't get at mine, he'll take yours."

"Hey, I'm not complaining," Vinnie said, trying to divert him, because he already knew this was headed someplace he didn't want to go. "Him mumbling through it, that was great—"

"Yeah, well," Sonny said. "He didn't mean it. I do," and there they were, because Sonny was putting a hand around the back of his neck, and Vinnie dropped his eyes while Sonny said, "This business, this life, you end up looking at everyone around you, waiting for the knives to come out. You stop trusting your own gut, man." He squeezed gently, and then he let go and headed back to the mirror, saying over his shoulder. "Hell, I should've known better. You ever wanted to turn on me, you wouldn't be that stupid about it."

Vinnie went and poured himself another drink before putting on the tux.



Sonny took him down to the nightclub on the ground floor. The seats were empty, but the stage was full of showgirls, leggy and dazzling in feathers and sequins, one dark-haired and bosomy curled up in Sonny's lap, and a parade of them stopping by Vinnie's chair.

"I'm telling you, any one of them," Sonny said. "Hell, any two—"

Vinnie laughed, a little desperately, and said, "You're nuts, man," downing another shot between kisses; the room was spinning, perfume in his nostrils, cool sweet taste of one anonymous mouth after another, and he wanted to shove them all away and crawl away to somewhere dark and quiet where he could drink himself blind stinking oblivious and stop hearing Karen's voice in his head talking about giving away pieces of herself, stop thinking about the pieces of himself he was losing to the man on the other side of the table.

"Hey, I don't do things half-assed," Sonny said, leaning forward to nuzzle at his girl and nip at her throat while she let her head tip back, glossy brown curls spilling over her shoulders, her mouth red and parted in a low sigh. Her skirt was so short Vinnie could see Sonny's hand moving back and forth underneath it, see what Sonny was doing that made her shiver all over and arch into him, and Sonny was half-grinning, eyes a black gleam under his half-lowered lids. "Come on, which one?"

"You're getting yourself in a corner," Vinnie said, trying to laugh it off. "What if I decided I want the waitress?"

"Then I'll get her for you," Sonny said. "What, you're doubting me?" He looked over; his eyes narrowed thoughtfully when he saw Vinnie watching, and he stroked his thumb deep between his girl's legs. She gave a low small whimper. "You want her? She's yours."

The girl opened wide and dazed eyes and stared at Vinnie across the table as Sonny pushed her off his lap and towards Vinnie on tottering legs. But Vinnie didn't want her; he didn't want anything but to be somewhere under a table, away from his own lies, the ones that were working too well. She tried to sit on his lap; he stiff-armed her long enough to get up, and then he let her slump into his empty chair instead and headed for the private elevator at the back of the room.

"Hey, come on," Sonny said. He stood up and threw money on the table and came after him, caught Vinnie's arm just outside the elevator door. "You think I'm going to be pissed or something? I'm not kidding. Anyone in the room, anyone you want. No holds barred," and Vinnie had drowned the last of his self-preservation, because he shook off Sonny's arm and said, "Yeah? What about you?"

Sonny went very still for a moment, the stillness of the cobra about to strike; Vinnie tightened up, watching Sonny's shoulders for the twitch, ready for the punch, and then Sonny leaned in and said, "You have the balls to ask me, Terranova, you can find out."

Vinnie's head was pounding, or maybe it was in his chest; he heard himself saying, "So I'm asking already." The elevator chimed and they were moving, and before the doors were even closed all the way behind them he had Sonny shoved up against the back of the elevator, tasting his mouth, hot and full of cigar-smoke and whiskey fumes.

"Christ," Sonny said, panting; that was all they said; Vinnie got his bowtie yanked loose and pulled off his cummerbund, popped open his shirt. They came off the elevator into the penthouse, fell down to the white shag carpet and fucked right there, Vinnie working in with spit and patience and the lubed-up condom Sonny shoved into his hand; Sonny clenching a fist into his hair and breathing hard, eyes closed.

Afterwards Vinnie just rolled off onto his back and went away for a while. He woke up bone-dry and sober, his mouth cottony; Sonny was kneeling down and slapping him lightly awake on the cheek. "Yeah, come on," he said, and Vinnie stumbled up and followed him into the bedroom: it was still dark out, except for the lurid glitter outside.

Sonny gave him a tall glass of water and waited until he finished drinking it. Then he took the empty glass out of Vinnie's hand, and Vinnie got on the bed without having to be told, face down and curled up around a pillow, breathing deep.

Sonny was as gentle about it as he could be, digging in to the knots at the join of Vinnie's neck and shoulder with strong, hard fingers, fighter's hands. "Easy there," Sonny said, "ease up," and pushed into him slow.

The tremors started at the bottom of Vinnie's spine and climbed him like a ladder, his mouth going sour and acid at the back of his throat. "What is this? Come on," Sonny said, and hauled him over onto his side, so he wasn't looking into the wall of a prison cell anymore. Instead he had the lights of the Strip melting and running in reflection on the curved enamel-glossy cabinets, starbursts going off on the glassed-in pictures while Sonny pressed up warm and close and slid a hand around Vinnie's hip to give him a reach around, slick tight grip coaxing him up.

Vinnie coughed a couple of times to get his throat cleared, his head starting to work right again. "Yeah, all right," he said, and Sonny started giving it to him, steady staccato beat in his bones. "Holy fuck," Vinnie said out of nowhere, surprising himself, and suddenly they were fucking for real, working the rhythm together, fitting into each other and, "Yeah. yes. Sonny," Vinnie said, "come on, come on," and Sonny pushed him back over on his stomach and he kept seeing starbursts anyway, braced up on his elbows taking it the way Sonny gave it to him, all the way, all the way home.

He lay awake loose as a jangling chain, lying flat with his leg bent at the knee and watching the lights move on the ceiling while Sonny slept next to him, gold watch glinting on his bare arm, dark against the white sheets.

"What I hated even more was the idea it might get easy," Karen said in his memory, while red and yellow neon glow rippled overhead. "That I'd traded away so much of myself there wasn't anything left."

"What happened in Vegas?" Frank asked in his head, and there was a reason the OCB taught you to tell your handler everything, everything you had to do undercover; once you started picking and choosing what you told, you were fucked forever; you'd end up lying about other things just to cover up the first set, and pretty soon you were knee-deep in mud and sinking fast.

But if he gave this to Frank, he'd be out without ever going back. There wasn't enough for a conviction, but they'd take what he'd gotten and put together something that would tie up some of Sonny's business for a while, leave him exposed and vulnerable, easy pickings, and one morning Sonny just wouldn't make it to the office, gone between one day and the next while Patrice swallowed up his territory and licked his chops.

That didn't really matter, though; that was just bullshit, because that wasn't why he was going to lie to Frank. Sonny was awake and watching him.

"You and me, Terranova, we are well and truly fucked," Sonny said, gripping Vinnie's head by the hair and shaking it gently a couple of times.

"Yeah," Vinnie said. He caught Sonny's wrist and tugged his fingers loose; and then he brought it down to his mouth and kissed the back of Sonny's hand.

= End =






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