They – the Fifth Column (the New York Chapter, at least) - needed Jack Landry. He was their moral compass, the voice of dissent when it came to taking dubious actions, and his vocation provided not just cover but an appearance of respectability for their operations.
It wasn't just in their freedom-fighting efforts that he was needed. It was in their inter-personal relationships. This was never more obvious than when it came to Hobbes, who had a tendency to rub people the wrong way, sometimes on purpose; Erica and Ryan tended to react violently to his barbs. And every time they physically lashed out, there was Jack, the voice of calm and reason, trying to prevent anyone from getting hurt.
The violence he provoked in her was a strong part of the desire Erica felt for Hobbes. The first time she'd given in and fucked him – yes, this wasn't about lovemaking, it was rough and primal – they'd both been left with bruises and scratches. Plus the bites, just hard enough to be painful, that she'd inflicted on his throat, his right nipple, and then his wrist when he'd tried to restrain her.
If Jack noticed the marks on their flesh where their clothing couldn't hide the evidence, he didn't mention it. They were, after all, all of them, often in receipt of minor injuries, a hazard of their work.
The second time Erica gave in, frustrated and angry at the world, the visitors, her son, her god-damned ex-husband, she was more interested in the pain than the pleasure, the oblivion than the experience. She wanted male hands on her body, reminding her that she was a woman and desirable, she wanted to lose herself in the ecstasy of orgasm, to drown out her thoughts with sheer animalistic passion. It didn't quite work out that way.
"Stop! You drew blood," he yelled, shoving her away.
Erica touched her tongue to her teeth, tasting the coppery tang of blood. Red drops welled up through the indentations in Hobbes's shoulder. For a moment she felt guilty; it hadn't been her intention to break the skin.
"We haven't got enough with bloody aliens," he went on, inspecting the wound, "you want to be a sodding vampire now?"
"Quit whining," Erica retorted instead of offering an apology. Sometimes he made her so angry and on top of her current dark mood, her rage at him clouded over any other feelings. She hated that she was attracted to him at all. Mercenary, freedom fighter, terrorist, killer. It wasn't right that his fingers on her skin made her wet between her thighs, it wasn't acceptable that when his words weren't stinging her that his voice made her stomach clench in anticipation.
Hobbes climbed off the bed and reached for his shirt. "Get out."
Erica's mouth fell open in outrage. "You're throwing me out?" she asked incredulously.
He nodded. "I don't mind being your booty call, Evans, but I won't be your punching bag as well. Go to the gym or something, work off some of that anger you're carrying about, but do not take out all your problems on me."
She stood, pulled on her blouse hastily, smoothing it down roughly.
"Your loss," she said sharply, and picked up her shoes, pounding up the steps from the basement barefoot.
Later that night, when she'd had a long shower, and two glasses of wine, she realised that Jack was the reason she wasn't beating up Hobbes every day of the week. His influence was soothing, they behaved a little better – a little more civilised – around him.
Where Hobbes was ruthless, Jack was compassionate, and they brought out these qualities in her too. Left alone with Hobbes she felt the flames of a fire that was likely to burn them to death; left alone with Jack, she felt a comforting warmth but at a distance that he imposed by his occupation, his manners, his gentleness.
Seducing a priest wasn't something Erica had ever considered. He was a man, like any other, and he wasn't above flirting -subconsciously? - when the timing was right.
"It's like The Thornbirds in here," Hobbes had commented once, watching Erica and Jack boxing. Maybe he'd just been stirring the pot, as usual, or maybe he was letting them know he saw actual sexual tension. Tension that she might have acted on after meeting Jack until the moment she first saw him wearing the clerical collar; tension that hadn't gone away, had just been pushed aside.
Perhaps it was time to test the tension again. Maybe he'd break.
Jack backed away from the table. This was clearly not just dinner. Not with flowers and candles and the best silverware.
"Erica, when you said you wanted to cook dinner," he began.
She'd pulled off the apron now and the sight of her in the tiny black dress made his breath catch in his throat.
"I get lonely," she said softly, stepping in close. She put her hands on his shoulders. In her heels, she could gaze almost directly into his eyes without lifting her head.
"I understand," he said, moving his own hands to cover hers, thumb poised to lift her palms from his shoulders.
"I don't think you do," she whispered. "I want you."
"I'm a priest."
Erica leant in and Jack found her lips on his. He resisted a moment. She probed at his lips with the tip of her tongue and he found himself yielding to her.
"This is wrong," he said when she pulled away.
"Other faiths allow their clergy to marry," Erica said.
"Most still frown on extramarital encounters," he pointed out.
"Can't you forget you're a priest? Just for one night." Erica sat on the nearest dining chair, leaning over so her cleavage strained against the dark material of the indecent dress, one thigh almost completely exposed.
Jack bit his lip, trying to gather his defences against temptation.
"I've been tempted only twice since I took my vows," he said at last. "Once, just after my tour of duty ended – I always thought it was a desire to block out what I'd seen, to encounter good, something worth all that death. And now, with you. You're the kind of woman I always thought I would have married. Strong but kind, loyal, and smart, and beautiful."
She gave him a sad smile. "But it isn't enough."
Jack touched at his throat, but he was wearing a standard white striped shirt, sans collar. "It might be. It might have been, God forgive me I thought about it, but –"
"But what?" She stood, eager, eyes bright with desire.
"I thought you were sleeping with Hobbes."
Erica looked at the floor. "Nothing escapes your notice does it?"
"It comes with the territory," he replied.
"He won't have me anymore," Erica said. "And with reason. So if the thought of stepping on the mercenary's toes is all that's stopping you, forget it. He's out of the game."
Jack tipped his head. "Not a game," he said. "If we do this, if I break my vows for you, this isn't just about sex. This is because I care deeply for you, more deeply than any other woman I've ever known."
"I understand." Erica moved in closer. "That's where I went wrong with Hobbes," she said.
"Not caring?" he asked, puzzled, reaching out and tucking a stray lock of her hair behind her ear.
"Yes. I forgot that he's human, that I could hurt him. I won't forget that with you," she swore. "I could never forget it. I care too much about you to hurt you."
Dinner went un-served, though the wine was drunk hastily. Hurried kisses in the dining room were followed by the shedding of clothes, and then, in deference to this being their first lovemaking session, Erica urged him to the bedroom. He deserved consideration, he deserved to have the bed, not the dining table, much as she thought how wonderfully decadent it would have been to fling the tablecloth to the floor and let him press her bare skin to the polished mahogany table.
Hobbes would have enjoyed the table, she thought, and then pushed him out of her mind. This night was for Jack.
There was one last hurdle as she pulled a condom from her bedside table – glancing at the expiry date as she did so. She kept a few for emergencies such as this, but she hadn't had an emergency – hell, hadn't made love at all – since Joe left. She'd thrown herself into her work instead, and besides, dating again would have been hard enough without having a teenage son in tow.
Jack stared at the prophylactic. They were both well aware of the church's position on condoms.
"I'm not getting pregnant," Erica said firmly. She took birth control anyway, had been used to doing so and found the convenience of a regular menstrual cycle too beneficial to give up. But she wanted to be sure, and, priest or not, she wanted to be certain there would be no chance of an STD.
"It's lucky you were prepared," he said at last, and it was decided, as quickly as that.
He was uncertain at first, but there was something about his actions that made Erica think he wasn't a virgin. Maybe he'd had a girlfriend before the seminary; she realized she knew barely anything about his early life.
She coaxed him, encouraged him. She guided his lips to her breast and let him suckle, tenderly, while she wound her fingers into his short, neat, hair. He was leaner than Joe, and his scent was different, the way he held her was different, the way he breathed her name was different. She was grateful for that, grateful that the first man in this bed since Joe was so different from her husband.
Afterwards, he lay staring at the ceiling, silent.
"Do you regret it?" she asked, slipping one hand into his. His fingers closed around hers, squeezing them firmly.
"No," he said, resolutely. He leant over and kissed her.
"What will you do?"
"Carry on as if nothing has happened," he told her. "The Vatican fell over itself welcoming the Visitors; one word from Anna and maybe priests can marry. The rules are no longer set in stone; they don't seem as important anymore."
Erica understood. She felt the same way.
"That was careless," Erica berated Hobbes. She peeled back the blood-soaked sleeve, wincing more than he did.
"It was this or I let you get killed," he told her. "I didn't have time to disarm my guy properly and take out your assailant."
She knew he was right, which was probably why she was doing what he was more than capable of doing for himself. At least the wound wasn't as bad as she'd feared. It was shallow, from a sharp blade, and barring infection should heal well.
"We were careless," she amended, bathing the cut. "We were outnumbered, that's why we were almost killed." Jack had a bruise on one cheekbone that was going to cause comment at Mass tonight, while Erica's shoulders were sore. She'd been thrown to the ground and had been in trouble when Hobbes had intervened. Ryan had killed two Visitors and then helped dispatch the rest of their attackers. He was the only one unscathed. Hobbes had made some brief fuss about Ryan having killed the V who cut him, (he'd wanted to do it himself) but since the alien in question had been about to finish the job while Hobbes was still choking Erica's would-be killer, no-one had paid him any mind.
"There's strength in numbers," Hobbes agreed. "Although there is something to be said for the lone gunman. No chance of betrayal, operate from a distance, don't get distracted by watching out for others."
"Spoken like the sniper you are," Erica commented, dabbing a little harder than necessary. "There. You were lucky."
"We were all lucky." He stripped off the long-sleeved shirt, throwing it in a crumpled heap onto the floor. Erica could still see the faint mark of her teeth in his shoulder even now, along with other, long-healed scars, souvenirs of his military service and mercenary activities.
He caught her gaze lingering too long on well-toned muscles. "You had your chance," he said. "Besides, you're sleeping with the padre now."
She frowned. "Is there a sign on my back that says who I'm sleeping with?"
He laughed, went to the tiny kitchen area and reached under the sink. "If you don't want people to know your business, don't hang around with those whose lives depend on observation." He held up a bottle of whisky. "Drink?"
"Hell, yes." Erica sat on the bed and waited while he poured two glasses of the brown liquid and brought them over. She sniffed at the alcohol appreciatively and then downed it in one go. "You didn't let on you knew."
"Hasn't been the right moment. I was saving it up for a special occasion, when I needed to distract you both from something else."
"You're incorrigible," Erica said, shaking her head.
"Yes, I am. So, what's it like? Doing a man of the cloth?" Hobbes sipped at his drink.
She shrugged. "He's a considerate lover," she said. It was really none of his business but who else could she talk to about this – and she longed to talk to someone.
"If that's the best you can come up with it won't last," he said.
Erica got up and went to the kitchen, pouring herself a second glass of whiskey.
"It's not just about sex," she told him. "I –" and she hesitated. "I care for him."
Hobbes gave a low whistle. "That was a close one," he said. "That was almost the L word, wasn't it?"
She flushed. "Screw you."
"We tried that."
Erica downed the second whiskey. "Jack stops us killing each other," she said, voicing her thoughts aloud at last. "He's the oil that stops us tearing each other apart. We need him."
"The Fifth Column us needs him, or the inappropriate relationship us needs him?"
She met his dark eyes, tipped her head, surprised he was so quickly on the same page with this. "You've given it some thought?"
"Yeah." He smiled. "I've been a lot of places you can't easily get female company. You learn that the usual rules can be relaxed, if everyone in your social circle agrees to it. Or agrees to look the other way."
"You find him attractive?" This was a new side to Hobbes and Erica was taken aback despite her casual questioning.
"I think he's a challenge. All that goodness just waiting to be corrupted. All that strait laced choirboy bull has got to be hiding some pent-up passion. It's the quiet ones you have to watch." Hobbes stood. "You still sticking to your story about him being considerate?"
She nodded. "I think maybe he's afraid to let go," she said. "He handles me so gently, like I'm made of glass."
"He wouldn't have that problem with me," Hobbes pointed out. "I could break him in for you."
She snorted and then grinned in embarrassment. "Do not talk about Jack like he's a horse."
"You'd know more about it than I would," he quipped.
"And don't talk about breaking him in for me." Erica discarded her glass and came to stand in front of Hobbes. She touched his shoulder with her fingertips, tracing the marks she'd made in his flesh. "If he's with us, it will be different. Better. Break him in for us. I want him, Kyle. And I still want you."
"You're asking a lot," he said softly.
"I always aim high." She tiptoed, kissed him. He returned the kiss, gently, arms enfolding her, one hand at her buttocks, the other on her shoulder. "And you've never let me down yet. And, you want this too, don't you?"
He trailed kisses down her cheek, her throat. "Yes."
She pushed away from him.
"When he cares for you like he does for me, we can be together. But not until then. It's too dangerous for you and too cruel to Jack. I don't want anyone hurt."
Hobbes sighed. "I'll think of something," he said. "Give me a week."
It wouldn't be easy, Hobbes thought. Jack might have decided celibacy was no longer an attractive option, but homosexuality was a whole other taboo.
Hobbes didn't consider himself gay. He'd grown up on a tough estate where being "queer" was likely to earn you a beating. Run-in's with criminals reinforced the message; sexual prowess was a badge of honour, where how many women (whores, bitches, and other epithets of course but never women from their mouths) you had slept with had a bearing on your masculinity.
Then there'd been the military, which had a two tier system of denouncing homosexuality while providing the best conditions for such relationships to flourish. The British government no longer had an anti-gay policy while America persisted with its ridiculous Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but twenty years back, being gay and wearing the uniform still wasn't allowed.
But, as he'd told Erica, between military service and continent hopping to sell his skills to the highest bidder, Hobbes found that comfort could take many forms. It was a dangerous business, never knowing if someone you approached might decide to kill you as per their country's customary punishment for such behaviour, but the risk was usually worth the reward.
There'd been women – plenty of women – and times of solitude, too, but there had also been men. Sometimes a quick fuck was necessary to relieve the tension, and he'd come to terms with that a long time ago.
The problem would be convincing the padre that such love was not a mortal sin.
Later, Hobbes thought approaching Jack at the church had probably been a bad idea. At the time, the moment had seemed right.
Jack was putting away hymn books in a low wooden cabinet. He was wearing black but a shirt and collar combination rather than the cassock. Hobbes approached him from behind; Jack straightened up and turned, on alert. Hobbes approved of the caution and said so.
"I was almost killed here," Jack said and pointed to a spot at the front of the church, just after the pews ended but before the altar. "Stabbed by a Visitor." His eyes were distant as he remembered, one hand touching unconsciously touching his lower chest. "So yes, I'm cautious."
"I didn't know."
"It was just before you joined us," Jack said, returning his attention to the present. "Anyway, what did you want?"
Hobbes shrugged. "To talk."
Jack raised one eyebrow, suspicions aroused, but his vocation wouldn't allow him to express such doubts or turn someone in need away, and his tone was carefully neutral as he asked, "About?"
One muscle twitched in his cheek and Jack swallowed nervously. Not a poker player – or not a very good one, Hobbes decided.
"What about Erica? Is she all right?" Jack steadily held Hobbes' gaze and the mercenary reluctantly gave him some credit for that.
"You tell me, padre," Hobbes said, stepping in closer. Jack stepped backwards automatically, pressed against the cabinet now, trapped. "You're the one sleeping with her."
Jack looked around quickly. More concerned that someone else might hear the truth than with dissuading him of the veracity. Interesting, Hobbes thought.
"Did she tell you?" Jack asked in a harsh whisper.
"Didn't have to," Hobbes murmured, matching the volume.
Jack nodded, gave a bitter smile. "You know deceit you when see it. I should have known you'd figure it out."
Hobbes leant in closer. "See it? I can practically smell her on you." Jack stiffened as Hobbes tipped his head, almost nuzzling at the priest's throat. He moved slightly, mouth a hairsbreadth from Jack's ear. "Not that I mind."
"Hobbes," Jack began hoarsely, a protest he'd never complete.
"Do you taste of her, too?" And then Hobbes's lips met Jack's and Jack struggled, shoving him away.
Face like thunder, Jack pointed an accusing finger. "What do you think you're doing?"
Hobbes laughed. "Pushing your buttons," he said lightly. "Like always."
He turned and walked out of the church, cursing under his breath. This was going to be harder than he'd thought.
While Hobbes made a point of making it business as usual, Jack was on edge. Ryan asked about the tension once, got an unsatisfactory answer, and, presumably, chalked it up to 'weird human stuff' he still didn't understand. Erica paid attention to the discussion at hand, and was overall professional in her demeanour, but she shot Jack a few glances that he looked away from.
"What is it?" she asked later. Jack had decided to stay the night again and was now bare-chested, sitting on the bed, watching her brush her hair.
"You and Hobbes. Did he do something you disapprove of? Do I need to talk to him?"
"No!" Realising he'd spoken too forcefully, Jack lowered his gaze. "It's nothing like that." He looked up, a tortured expression on his face.
"Jack, what is it?" Erica put down the brush and knelt in front of him. "You can tell me."
He shook his head. "No. No, I can't. I'm sorry."
"No. Please, just leave it alone. Everything's moving so quickly and I – I need to know who I am." He cupped her chin in one hand. "Things are changing, I'm changing. I need time."
"Okay," she reassured him. "We'll take things slower." She pulled away so she could climb up alongside him.
"Hobbes knows. About us." Jack sighed. "I think…maybe he's jealous?"
"Of you? He sent me away, remember?" Erica rested her head on his shoulder.
Jack didn't respond to that. Erica kissed him again.
"Let's go slowly," she said softly. "But let's not stop."
They spent an hour exploring each other's bodies with hands and tongues, pressing kisses to warm flesh, licking at delicate areas, fingertips tracing patterns over hips and buttocks. There was no sex, no climax, but this time was rewarding, precious.
Jack held her as he drifted off to sleep. She pulled away when she became uncomfortable, one arm developing pins and needles, and leant on one elbow, watching him sleep.
Jack was using the telephone, trying to calm a parishioner, and Ryan was meeting them at the site a tip-off had identified as a Fifth Column meeting place. Hobbes and Erica waited for Jack in the car. Erica applied lipstick, caught Hobbes watching her with interest.
"I am a girl," she said. "Besides, in this wind, my lips would chap without it."
"Have to keep the mouth kissable for the cleric," he returned. "How am I going to compete if you keep making yourself pretty for him?"
"How's that going?" she asked, checking her reflection in the side mirror.
"Not well, as I'm sure you've gathered. I think I spooked him."
Erica laughed. "He's a horse again?"
Hobbes shook his head. "The only way this goes any further is if he decides to seduce me."
"So that's it? You're going to give up."
Hobbes shrugged. "Did it occur to you that even if he'd consider it, he might not consider it with me?"
She frowned. "Actually I thought you might be the only man he would consider it with. It's an odd bond we've developed, the three of us, more sexual than not."
"War puts stress on people." Hobbes was silent a moment. "When your lives depend on one another, it makes you closer than you'd otherwise get."
Jack hurried over, climbing into the rear of the vehicle. "Sorry. Clerical duties."
"Shorthand or typing?" Hobbes quipped as he started the car. Jack just smiled.
"We were talking about war," Erica said.
"No we weren't," Hobbes said.
"You watch the road," she ordered, turning to look at Jack. "About how it makes people become more intimately involved."
Jack's mouth fell open. "I'm not comfortable discussing our relationship with anyone else right now," he said firmly when he found his voice. He sat back, arms folded defensively over his chest.
Erica sighed. Everyone was quiet until the tension was almost unbearable.
"For God's sake put the radio on," Hobbes snapped.
Erica fumbled with the player. Two advertisements, a heavy metal track, and a news report later, she found an "oldies" music channel that she hoped everyone would find agreeable, only to turn it off in horror when the singer proclaimed, "Radical but practical, why can't the three of us live together? It's a culture shock."
"I think silence is better," Erica said, but Jack actually laughed out loud
"A friend of mine was so in love with Olivia Newton John," he said. "He even used to dress like John Travolta in Grease." And the tension was lost in the storytelling.
The lone female survivor of the Fifth Column wannabes didn't want to give up her gun. Erica's soothing tones had no effect.
"You're protecting the Visitors," she shrieked. "You're part of the task force. I saw you on TV!"
Hobbes stepped forward. "Head of the task force," he corrected, grinning at Erica, before returning his full attention to the frightened woman. "You seen me on TV too? Cause if so, you know I have no love for the V's."
The woman hesitated. "I don't think I trust you either."
"It's the beard," Ryan said helpfully. "Makes you look dangerous."
"Everyone calm down," Jack said. He stepped in front of her, unflinching as she pointed her weapon at him. "It's okay. I'm a priest. See?"
"I'm not Christian," she said, but she still seemed to relax a little.
"That's okay. We can still find common ground. You hate the Visitors, right?" Jack asked.
"We've all got issues with the Visitors too. I promise we aren't here to hurt you. We came looking for you so we could help."
"You're late. They're all dead!"
Jack nodded solemnly. "I know. I'm sorry. But let us help you. Relocate you, somewhere safe."
She began weeping and Jack took the gun from her unresisting hand. She leant into him and he held her as best as he could while holding out the gun for Ryan to secure. Hobbes watched as Jack comforted the distraught woman. The padre couldn't help himself but care. It was a possible way in.
Hobbes called Erica while he paced the basement room.
"Whatever Jack tells you, don't come here," he said. "I'm trying plan B." Then he called Jack, told him come over. Then he took a quick shower – it wasn't the Ritz, but the basement had all the necessary amenities – and, towel wrapped around his waist, sat on the bed.
He ran his fingertips over the knife wound on his arm that Erica had been so concerned about. It had been healing up nicely. The things he did for people, Hobbes thought, taking up his knife. He gritted his teeth as he carefully reopened the wound.
"What's going on? It's late," Jack complained when he arrived a few minutes later.
"Yeah, sorry." Hobbes was still sitting on the bed, bloodied cloth pressed to the wound.
Immediately Jack switched into concerned mode. "What happened?" he asked, crouching down to see.
"Not sure. I was taking a shower, maybe I caught it, opened it back up."
Jack peeled away the cloth. "Maybe it needs stitches," he said. "It shouldn't still be bleeding like this." He pressed gently around the cut. "It doesn't seem infected. Still, maybe some antibiotics? There's some for emergencies, isn't there?"
"This isn't an emergency," Hobbes said.
"But you were worried enough to call me to look at it," Jack said. "Are you sure you're okay? Any fever? Tiredness?"
"Aren't we always tired? When was the last time you had a good night's sleep?"
"Don't change the subject," Jack said. "And don't think I don't notice that you do that."
Hobbes stayed quiet as Jack gathered up supplies and cleaned the wound before covering it with gauze.
"If it starts bleeding again, we're finding a doctor who's sympathetic to the Fifth Column," Jack said.
"Shouldn't be difficult with the Visitor healing centres stealing their business," Hobbes said.
Jack nodded as he cleared away the supplies. "I don't know what the Visitors are up to," he said. "The healing centres at least seem to be doing good work. Without them I'd be dead. Why save us just to kill us later?"
"Maybe they don't want humans dead. Maybe they want us to be their slaves. Or their food," Hobbes said.
Jack gave him a look of horror. "You really think that? Surely Ryan would have said something if they were going to eat us?"
Hobbes shrugged. "Just thinking aloud. So, the Visitors fixed you up. Show me."
Jack hesitated, then unbuttoned his shirt, exposing his taut, toned chest. "Here," he said, pointing to unblemished flesh. "Just below my ribs. I thought I was going to die."
"Not a scratch on you," Hobbes said.
"Their technology is very advanced."
"Could do with some of that, I guess." Hobbes ran his fingers over a thin diagonal welt on his own chest, a little more to the left than Jack had indicated.
Jack nodded, curious. "How did you get that?"
"Knife fight in Colombia," he said.
Jack lifted his eyebrows but said nothing He pointed to another scar, a roughly semi-circular shape on Hobbes's right hand chest. "Bullet wound?"
"No." Hobbes hesitated. "My father…"
Jack sat down next to Hobbes, head cocked, expression intent. "I'm sorry," he said softly when Hobbes didn't elaborate.
"It's all right. I survived." Hobbes gestured behind his back, returning to times in his life he was willing to discuss. "Bullet wound there. Poland. Friendly fire. Last time I worked with that guy."
Jack leant back to find the raised mark across Hobbes's back. He ran two fingers gently across the scar. "We wear our stories on our skin," he said, and sat back up. He touched the tattoos on Hobbes's upper arm; two kanji and the name of his military unit. "Like these."
"You got any tats?" Hobbes asked.
"No. The Church isn't keen on them, though many Christians now proudly wear crosses or references to scripture. I suppose I thought my clerical dress, my rosary, my crucifix were enough outward signs of my devotion."
Jack paused in his introspection to gather his thoughts. "But I understand the desire, especially when someone has no vocation, to change themselves in some way. I've always thought tattoos are scars we choose for ourselves. Permanent reminders of something or someone that has affected us so deeply that we're willing to mark ourselves in recognition of the fact. Or something we're aspiring to, I suppose."
He laughed, lifting the mood. "The only scar I have is on my knee, from skateboarding when I was a child."
Hobbes laughed at that. "I'd love to see you on a skateboard, padre".
"Don't hold your breath. It was a long time ago." Jack fingered behind his ear. "Oh, and this mark, the one that proves I'm human. That's somewhere between the two, I suppose. A scar, but done deliberately, an outward sign."
Hobbes lifted the hair from behind Jack's ear to expose the 'V' where a small flap of skin had been cut to prove there was not lizard skin beneath the human flesh. He touched it gently, felt Jack shudder almost imperceptibly.
"You didn't cut me," Hobbes said.
"We assumed you were human since the Visitors were framing you," Jack said. "And I think you've got enough scars to prove you are one of us."
Hobbes shifted position until he was lying down on the bed. He tugged at the towel, exposing more of the skin just above his right hip. "Got some more. This one: shrapnel, when I was in the military proper." Jack turned to lean over him, staring at the tiny roughly z-shaped mark
"Now that one did get infected," Hobbes said.
"Was it bad?"
"I tend to survive things," Hobbes said.
Jack nodded as he studied the scar. "You've seen a lot of violence."
"So have you."
"From more of a distance," Jack said. Then he pointed to Hobbes's shoulder. "That's just bruising, isn't it?"
"Mostly." Hobbes glanced at it. "Erica did that." He watched for Jack's reaction. Jack frowned, peering closer at the bruises.
"Erica? Why? What – are those teeth marks?" he asked incredulously.
"Yeah. That's why I stopped screwing her. She gets out of control."
Jack shook his head. "No," he said firmly. "She's gentle, patient."
Jack thought about that a moment. "She shouldn't have done that," he said. He leant over and pressed his lips to the damaged flesh. "I'm sorry. She said she hurt you. I didn't imagine she meant this."
Hobbes swallowed hard. "What are you doing, padre?"
"Don't call me padre," Jack whispered. "Use my name." He placed one hand on Hobbes's hip.
"Jack," Hobbes said as he other man sought out the knife wound and pressed his lips to that scar too.
"This is what you wanted, isn't it? When you cornered me in the church?" Jack kissed the spot that wasn't a bullet wound. "Damn you, Kyle Hobbes, I haven't stopped thinking about that kiss ever since. You make me question everything I believe in."
"Redemption? Love?" Hobbes asked breathlessly. "If I love you, if I love Erica, it gives me something to believe in, gives me a hope of redeeming myself."
Jack moved lower, tongue licking at the shrapnel scar, arousing Hobbes more than the priest was probably aware of.
"Of course I believe in redemption," Jack said, pausing in his exploration of Hobbes's body. "I just have to reconcile my new desires with my faith. And I'm not sure I can. But I'll try. Religions do change, over time, and I can only hope that one day love of all kinds will be recognised."
"And right now?"
"Now, I make do. Now I give in. The world's gone crazy, the Visitors have us at their mercy. I won't play by anyone else's rules anymore." Jack tugged at the towel, pulling the cloth open, so that Hobbes was naked.
Jack took a deep breath. "I've never done this," he said. He placed his palm on Hobbes's lower belly, just above his groin. "You have to tell me if I'm doing it right."
Hobbes closed his eyes as Jack moved with aching slowness to finally grasp his cock. There would be no turning back now.
Jack was good at taking direction, not that he'd needed much. Afterwards, Hobbes pulled Jack close and kissed him roughly.
"Next time – penetration?" Jack asked, sounding rather worried.
"No. Next time I do you," Hobbes promised. "We can figure the rest out later. There's lots of ways to experience pleasure."
"Don't think I'm so innocent of the ways of the flesh," Jack said. "How I can be suitably disapproving of a sexual practice if I don't know what it entails?" He laughed, asked, "So there's a next time?"
"If you want."
Jack slipped his shirt completely off and unbuckled his belt. "I feel overdressed," he said. "Let's try some of those other ways to experience pleasure."
Jack's naked body against his own wasn't something Hobbes had ever expected to experience, nor to enjoy so much. He let Jack take the lead for a while, once again teasing with his mouth, his fingertips. Then he moved to take over, sitting astride Jack, nipping gently at one earlobe.
"Sometimes rougher is better," Hobbes said, pinching one pert nipple between his fingers and watching as Jack squirmed at the pleasure-pain this induced. "I'll tell you when it gets too much. You tell me if it gets too much."
"Kyle," Jack breathed.
"You planned this, didn't you? You manipulated me," Jack accused softly.
Hobbes pulled away, decided honesty was probably the best course of action. "Yes. Are you angry?"
"Yes," Jack said, but without indication of his anger in his tone. "But I know why you did it. Lie back down."
Hobbes obeyed, lying next to him. Jack ran his fingers down Hobbes's chest, trailing the indentation between his ribs, running a feather light touch over his stomach, pausing just below his navel when Hobbes's breath caught, audibly, in his throat.
"I'm going to forgive you, because that's what I do. I forgive people. But there'll be penance, Kyle. You will make this up to me."
It was a statement not a question.
"Absolutely," Hobbes said.
Jack sighed and shifted position once more, now leaning on one elbow. He ran his fingers through Hobbes's tangled hair.
"What's wrong?" Hobbes asked, thinking how pensive, almost sad, Jack looked.
"I'm just wondering…"
"What do we do?" Jack asked. "I'm…I'm with Erica. And I care about her. I can't cheat on her – I mean, I didn't intend for this to happen. I certainly can't do it again if I'm going to be true to her. But I – you – us -"
Hobbes reached up and pressed one finger to Jack's lips. "Ssh," he said, trying to sound gentle but unable to keep from laughing.
Jack frowned and pushed Hobbes's hand away. "This is a genuine concern," Jack said seriously.
Hobbes smiled broadly. "I'm not belittling your concern, Jack. It's just that of all the problems I thought you might have with this, you picked the one that you must realise is not going to be an issue."
It took some time, that first encounter, overcoming the sudden shyness. They'd all been intimate with each other but somehow it was different now they were all together.
At last they found their places in the dance, though. Erica masturbated and made encouraging noises while Hobbes pleasured Jack – the first time it had been that way around, but no less successful for that. Then Jack, contented for the moment, watched as Hobbes made love to Erica. But Jack found himself intervening with a gentle squeeze at her breast, or distracting her by kissing her lips, whenever she began to dig her nails in too deeply – and this seemed to be not only acceptable but encouraged. And then Jack, under Hobbes's watchful gaze, made love to Erica, emboldened rather than discouraged by the other man's presence. Hobbes kissed Erica roughly, and she pulled at his hair, and it provoked even stronger feelings in Jack, part arousal, part jealousy – though he couldn't say who he was more jealous of.
There was no need for jealousy, he realised as he basked in the warm afterglow of orgasm, Hobbes kneeling at his side and licking at his nipples while Erica was pressed alongside him, occasionally reaching out to drag Hobbes's head closer so she could kiss him. It would take some getting used to, but they all had equal shares in this.
No, he thought. They may have manipulated him into taking the first steps, but they needed him for this to continue, giving him a little more power in the relationship than either of them possessed. He was the fulcrum that made this balancing act possible.
"I should go to Confession tomorrow," Jack murmured, half to himself.
"Confession's only for things you're sorry about," Hobbes reminded him. Jack felt Erica freeze beside him, expecting the worst.
"You're right," Jack said. "I think I'd like to unburden myself. But I'm not sorry. Not when I love you both."
Erica sat up. "You love me?"
Jack nodded. He'd thought about it a lot, couldn't have come this far without heartfelt feelings for her – for them. "I do."
Erica looked at Hobbes who had sat back on his heels. "He said the L word," she said in hushed tones. She leant over and kissed Jack, long, and hard.
"I love you, Jack," she said decisively.
Jack looked over to Hobbes who shook his head, lowering his eyes in regret.
"He's just not ready for that yet," Erica said.
"I can wait," Jack said. "It's all right. This is supposed to be about trust. No-one gets pushed into doing anything they don't want to. I'm making that a rule."
Erica blinked, suddenly tearful as joy and love overwhelmed her. "That's another reason I love you," she said.
"You say something like that you have to mean it," Hobbes said. "I spend half my life lying to people. I'm not going to lie to you, not about that."
"You don't have to explain or justify," Jack assured him, reaching out to touch Hobbes's thigh. "It's okay."
They paused for a moment for refreshments– vodka was all Erica had on hand so they were drinking neat shots.
"Anyone ready to go again?" Erica asked, as she climbed back onto the bed, despite stifling a yawn.
"Good Lord, woman, I'm not twenty anymore," Hobbes moaned. "It's all right for you, we were doing all the hard work!"
"Fine." Erica shoved him out of the way and straddled Jack's knees. "I'll do some 'work' then."
Erica's mouth on his cock was a whole new experience for Jack and he wound one hand into the bedsheets as pleasure shot through his body. Unwilling to be left out, Hobbes moved to a position where he could once again tease Jack's nipples, nipping very gently at the delicate buds.
A few weeks ago he'd have been outraged at the suggestion he'd break his vows and take a woman to his bed, let alone a man. None of that mattered anymore, Jack thought, as, for one ecstatic moment, he tasted heaven.
"I'm so happy," Erica said softly.
Erica lay on Jack's right, curled up on her side, spooning him. One arm was laid over his hip, her fingers resting just above his groin. Hobbes was lay on his back and Jack's head was pillowed against the mercenary's shoulder (true, pillowed implied something softer, but there was a different sort of comfort from this touch that made it worthwhile).
Jack had thrown one arm over Hobbes, his hand resting near the other man's hip. Erica sighed in contentment, nuzzling the back of Jack's neck with her nose. Hobbes's arm, the one tucked beneath Jack's head, was lying on her pillow and at the sound of her voice, Hobbes's flexed his fingers, catching at her hair.
"We need to work on the sleeping arrangements," Hobbes said drowsily.
"Not now," Erica mumbled. "I'm comfy."
"We should take turns," Jack said softly, stifling a yawn. "In the middle."
"Nah. I can reach my weapon from here."
"Are you keeping a gun under my mattress, Hobbes?" Erica asked.
"Under the bed. Like your sidearm isn't on your dresser."
"Don't fight," Jack begged. Erica shifted about, pressed a kiss to his shoulder.
"Sorry," she said.
"We'll be good," Hobbes agreed contritely.
It was the best night's sleep any of them had experienced for many weeks.