The first time Erica slept with Jack was the day he quit the priesthood. It was no longer forbidden but that didn't take away the thrill. His kisses were urgent, his fingers eager on her skin, and she'd felt obligated to match the speed of his desperate fumblings. It was over quickly, that first time, his pent-up passion being more of a flare than a slow-burn. There had been other, better times, since then. He let her take the lead, willing to learn, and she was happy to teach. He was eager to please her and it thrilled her to have a lover so willing to make her enjoyment the focus of the act.
The first time Erica slept with Hobbes was the day she thought she'd lost him. Why he'd chosen to wear body armour that day wasn't something even could he explain so she chalked it up to gut instinct and allowed herself to finally acknowledge how much he meant to her. It started out as a means to comfort him as well as herself, a slower and gentler act than she'd expected it to be with him. Only once did she forget herself and lean on his badly bruised ribs, and she was immediately contrite. There had been other, better times since then. Uninjured, he was a more confident lover, taking the lead when she let him. It was a different experience to sex with Jack; she could give herself completely over to the moment if she wished, give up the control she so valued in the rest of her life.
The first time there was a problem with this unspoken agreement, that she would share her time between the time of them fairly equally, was the day Jack said he'd got tickets for the theatre.
"It's my turn," Hobbes said.
Erica stepped between them. "What I think Hobbes means –"
"What I mean is you've been out or merely in with him four nights this week," Hobbes said. "It's my turn."
"You're keeping count?" Jack asked, exasperated.
"Damn right I am!"
"I am not an amusement park ride," Erica put it sharply. "You two don't get to decide whose turn it is!"
For a moment both men were silent, aware they'd misstepped.
"I'd prefer it if we were mutually exclusive," Jack said, and met Hobbes's glare with a challenging, steady, gaze.
Erica shook her head. "Again, you don't get to decide that. Besides, I thought you were seeing that data analyst?"
"It didn't work out," Jack said. "And that was your idea in the first place. You said I should broaden my horizons. I don't want them broadened. I want you."
Her expression softened and she reached out to touch his shoulder. Hobbes made a noise of disgust. Erica shot him a look but he was undeterred.
"Is that all it takes to get under your skin, Erica? Puppy dog eyes and a pleading tone? Not really my style. Do I need to get shot again? Would that gain your sympathy?"
Erica gave a long suffering sigh. "Don't be ridiculous. Maybe there's a way to compromise."
"What did you have in mind?" Hobbes asked cautiously.
"What if we have sex now and then I can still go to the play with Jack tonight?" Erica smiled encouragingly. "Then everyone's happy."
Hobbes shrugged, nodded. "Sounds fair."
"What?" Jack tugged at Erica's sleeve. "Are you serious?"
"Yes." She tried to smooth down his hair in a comforting way but he batted her hand away.
"You think that is a suitable compromise?" Jack demanded.
"How could it be fairer?" she asked. Jack hesitated, unwilling to earn himself a further reprimand from her.
"I'll take Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays," Hobbes offered, "Jack can take Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Sundays you get to yourself."
Erica planted her hands on her hips. "Oh, really?"
Hobbes nodded. "And if you've got theatre tickets, for instance, swapping a day will be acceptable. I'm not an unreasonable man."
Erica looked to Jack. To her surprise he actually seemed to be giving the arbitrary arrangements serious thought.
"What about holidays?" Jack asked. "I suppose you have an idea about that, too?"
"Of course," Hobbes said, confidently. That he'd put this much thought into it already worried Erica a little. "I get Christmas, because even if you're not a priest, I expect you'll want to go to Mass and Erica won't."
"But I get Thanksgiving, then," Jack said quickly. "Because we're American and you're not."
Hobbes smiled. "Fair enough," he agreed. "I've no real feelings about Easter, so –"
Erica cleared her throat. "Again, I think I get a say."
"You don't want Thanksgiving with me?" Jack asked.
"Are you both being serious about this? We're fighting an alien invasion and you're debating – well, custody arrangements is what it sounds like!"
"You have a better idea?" Hobbes asked.
"Yes," Erica said. "Honestly, for men who walked away from two of the most rule-obsessed institutions in the world, you're both so hung up on how things are or should be. Think outside the box a little."
They were both silent. Erica sighed. "Let me show you what happens at New Years."
Afterwards, Jack said thoughtfully, "I don't think that the play is supposed to be very good anyway. We could stay here a while longer."
"Maybe," Erica said. Jack was pressed against her left hip, perilously close to the edge of the bed. She turned her head to the right. "Would that be okay, Hobbes?"
"Sure." He leaned over and planted a kiss on her bare shoulder. "One thing, though. I think New Years might have to happen a bit more often."
"Monthly, possibly," Jack agreed. "Weekly, when there's the time."
Erica smiled. "See what happens when you compromise?"