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All the lonely people

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"Stu's gone, John. He's dead."

Her eyes are dry, like she's done all her mourning on the inside. John wishes he could yell at her, tell her she should at least fucking cry for him, but he can't, because he can't seem to believe it's true himself, not when the flat's decorated with Stu's paintings, Stu's clothes are in the closet, and everything still smells of him, cigarettes and turpentine and underneath it all, Stu, Stu, Stu.

"He's not gone," John says, looking at the girl he could have fallen in love with if she hadn't fallen for his best friend, the girl maybe he did fall in love with, just a little. "He's not really." If he says it often enough, maybe he can believe it for a moment or two. Make it not be true that Stu's never coming back. Make him walk in the door right now and tell them it was all just a laugh, and weren't they both fools to believe it.

But Astrid's so bloody calm. "I was there. I saw him go." She puts her hand on his, like it's her who's doing the comforting. She's the girl, she should be the one crying on my shoulder, John thinks, and then feels ashamed for thinking it, for wishing her to be weaker so that he could seem stronger. But if she would just cry already, it might make it less awful for him to do the same.

He doesn't mean to touch her face or pull her into his arms, but he does. She's still – not pulling away, not drawing closer. She should push me away, he thinks, for his sake. He's not even cold in the ground yet, and I shouldn't be doing this. She doesn't push him away, though, and when he kisses her she parts her lips just a little and sighs softly.

"It's wrong," he tells her, even though he was the one who started it. "We can't."

She shakes her head, that short blonde hair brushing against his cheek. "Stu would… I think he would understand. He wouldn't begrudge us, just once." And she climbs onto his lap, wrapping her arms about his neck. He slides his hands up under her shirt, and she's got nothing underneath but warm skin.

"Should we… the bed?" he asks between kisses. She shakes her head, and he's not sure if it's because she's in too much of a hurry, or because the bedroom would bring back too many memories of Stu. She stands for just a second to strip off her slim black trousers, then straddles him again, and he's so fucking hard against her, bent uncomfortable against his fly and aching to get it out.

He wavers between thinking this is an obscenity, the worst kind of insult to his dead friend, and an act of love, memory, mourning, celebration. And all of those things can be true at once, he realizes as she unzips him and straightens him out, and that's all right. Astrid raises herself up just a few inches so that she can ease down onto his cock, steadying herself with hands on his shoulders. She gives a little cry when he's all the way in, rests her forehead against his for a second or two before she starts to rock her hips slow, back and forth on him, almost soothing. She cradles his head against her breasts, and there's nothing he can do except rock there with her, clutching onto her tight and wondering how the hell this ever could have happened.

They stay like that for ages, just swaying together so they won't fall, mixing salt and sweat and feeling a little less emptiness than before.. Eventually, though, Astrid slides one hand down between them, fingering herself with quick strokes, and then she starts to move faster, riding him more eagerly. John leans back on the couch and watches her go, and thinks that he would trade this moment, in all its lonely glory, just to have Stu back. "I loved him," he tries to tell her, "I understand," but he's not sure she's listening, and her eyes are wide and blind as she comes, crying out Stu's name. John does the same a few moments later, and feels her tears falling onto his upturned face, mingling there with his own.