Jack entered the basement with a smile on his face at hearing the music playing over the PC speakers.
"That song brings back memories," he said. (If paradise is) Half as Nice was currently playing. Hobbes reached over to the computer but Jack gestured.
"No, leave it." He sat on the bed, watching as Hobbes, seated at the table, worked at soldering wires. He wasn't sure what the mercenary was making—and for his own peace of mind, it was probably better not to ask. "I used to love this song."
"Echoes of a simpler time," Hobbes said, displaying one of his occasional philosophical lapses.
"God, do you remember being sixteen?" Jack asked. "Everything was so simple back then."
"Maybe." Hobbes frowned at the circuit board a moment. "Sixteen was a difficult time for me. My bad boy era. Couple of run-ins with the law, less than ideal family situation."
"You mean this isn't your bad boy era?" Jack asked. When Hobbes just smiled and continued working, Jack said, "Was that why you joined the military? A chance to straighten out?"
"If it was that didn't exactly go to plan, did it?" Hobbes sat back, admired his handiwork.
"There's something about the sixties, isn't there?" Jack said, as Magic Carpet Ride started playing. "Nostalgia, but for a golden age that never was. People always look back and say 'it was better then'."
"Especially seeing as we weren't even around in the sixties," Hobbes agreed. "I mean, in Britain the seventies were virtually our version of your sixties, but it was the eighties before I hit adolescence."
"And that being a difficult time in anyone's life, we hark back further to the golden era our elders told us about."
"And now, in times like these, with everything we know under threat..." Hobbes shrugged.
"It might not really have been a golden age, but I did have fun when I was younger," Jack said wistfully.
Hobbes considered and then pulled open a drawer. He took out a small leather pouch and shook the contents onto the desk.
"How much fun?" he asked.
Jack frowned. "Is that marijuana?"
"Yeah. It was a bonus for a job I did - one you don't want to ask me about."
Jack gave him a disapproving look. Hobbes gestured, unconcerned.
"I'm not in the habit of getting high," he said. "Drunk sometimes, high rarely. But this stuff's nothing. Not that highly addictive crap the kids are all hooked on."
Jack chewed at his lip and Hobbes smiled.
"Who'd know?" he said slyly, seeing the temptation on Jack's face.
"God," Jack said, looking guiltily at the ceiling. "And me. And you."
"Who am I going to tell?" Hobbes assembled a roll-up. He took up a lighter and got the joint alight. The distinctive smell—college, summer, drugs—began to fill the basement. Jack had trained at the seminary like a good Catholic boy on the road to priesthood but he'd never been completely innocent. Hobbes took a long drag and held it, letting the smoke out slowly.
Jack watched, torn. When Hobbes held out the joint, he shook his head. He hadn't touched tobacco in years, let alone marijuana. He'd done some work with various anti-drug programmes. Yet this wasn't crack cocaine. And Hobbes looked like he was enjoying it so much. And now The Who were talking about their generation and Jack wanted so desperately to embrace the memories of a time before he was a priest fighting aliens, a time when he was just a young man with his whole life ahead of him.
When Hobbes leaned back in his chair after another couple of drags and proffered the joint again, Jack took it. Hobbes watched him lazily as Jack took a hesitant draw.
"Hey," Erica called, her high heels clattering on the stone steps over the sound of Dave Berry was singing about he didn't want any more of the Crying Game. "It smells like a drug den in here! What are you up to? "
"Reminiscing," Jack said.
Erica halted. Jack was lay across the width of the bed, head hanging over the edge so he was watching her approach upside down. Hobbes was sat on the floor, leaning against the bed, and Erica watched as he passed Jack a homemade rollup.
"Are you smoking weed?" she asked incredulously.
"Mother's home," Hobbes grumbled as Erica came to stand over him.
"Drugs? That's really responsible," she said sarcastically.
"S'not that strong," Hobbes said.
"And that makes it okay?" she asked, crouching down.
"It's not really that bad," Jack murmured, offering her the joint. "Here."
"I'm a Federal Agent! We have random drug tests!" Erica shook her head. "Jack, I expected better of you."
Jack rolled over and tried to focus on her face. "Don't you remember what it was like? Your parent's LPs, a smoke, a beer, trying to forget all the stress. Like we knew what stress was then! But before all this crap. I mean, aliens? Who could have seen that coming?"
Hobbes took back the joint and took another long inhale. Eric watched, disapproval warring with her own temptations. The Doors were lighting their fire and she found herself remembering life before becoming an agent. Days of flirting with Joe, of lying in the park and dreaming about what could be.
"You're almost out," Erica said.
Hobbes flicked his eyes to the desk. "There's more." He shifted, decided it was too much effort to stand, and sat back down.
Erica, against her every instinct, sat down at the desk and expertly rolled a second joint.
"You're a woman of many talents," Hobbes said.
"You don't know the half of them," Erica said, flicking at the lighter several times before it burst into flame. She worked at getting the joint lit.
"What about your job?" Jack asked.
"I'll say I was infiltrating a Fifth Column group and this was part of the initiation," she replied. This struck Jack as being particularly funny, for no apparent reason. It did seem a more pleasant way to prove your humanity than having a flap of skin cut open behind your ear.
"If you'd told me, I could have made dope cookies," she said, inhaling and then blowing out a stream of smoke.
"You bake?" Hobbes asked.
"Like I said, there's no end to my talents." Erica came and knelt at his side, offered him the joint.
California Dreaming started playing. Jack decided it would be fun to sing along. Erica and Hobbes somehow got the idea it might be fun to provide the chorus vocals. It actually went quite well until there was mention of the preacher, which led Erica to dissolve into uncharacteristic giggles.
Erica was lying on the floor, head in Hobbes's lap. He currently had custody of the joint. Jack poked at him.
Hobbes surrendered it and Jack took a long drag on it.
"How comes I'mma on the floor?" Erica mumbled. "I'm the girl. And Jack's got the bed."
Jack blinked at her through the smoke. "There's room," he said.
"Never mind it's my bed," Hobbes grumbled, yelping as Erica elbowed him perilously close to his groin as she sat up.
Erica confiscated the joint and took a drag, then passed it back to Jack. She pulled Hobbes close and kissed him, sharing the marijuana smoke.
"Hey," Jack said, feeling left out.
Erica smiled and climbed up alongside him. She undid her blouse, throwing it behind her. This meant it landed on Hobbes, whose reflexes were dulled enough that it took a moment before he grabbed at it and throw it aside.
"Your turn," Erica said. Jack sat up, held out the joint, and she took it.
"S'like this porn movie I saw once," Hobbes commented, shifting around to watch. "Was this priest, right, and this woman who was—I don't know. Some sort of nun. Don't think it was as good as this, actually."
Erica kissed Jack and he coughed a little, unprepared for the experience. Erica sat back on her heels to let him recover. She leant over and absent mindedly petted Hobbes.
At some point they'd all shifted positions and now Hobbes was sat on the bed, leaning back on the metal headrest. Erica was lying curled up with her head once more in his lap; Hobbes occasionally toyed with a lock of her hair. Jack was sprawled over most of the remaining space. The joint was finished, though their high continued.
The strains of a Whiter Shade Of Pale filled the contented silence.
"I lost my virginity to this song," Jack said. At the other's surprised looks, he said, "I wasn't born a priest, you know!"
Erica leaned over with some effort and kissed his cheek, placating him. "What was her name?"
"Jennifer," he said without hesitation. "She had blue eyes and dark hair and nice breasts."
Hobbes tipped his head, looking into Jack's unfocused gaze. "Would you like to lose it again?" he asked.
Erica shook her head and patted Hobbes's thigh. "Sweetie, no. Not while we're intoxicated."
"Sweetie?" Hobbes said with a grin. "All right. It was just a thought."
Erica stifled a yawn. "I'm tired. I've had barely any sleep this week as it is."
"So sleep. We're safe enough here," Hobbes said.
When Erica woke up, she was alone on the bed. Her mouth was dry and she sat up, blinking. Jack was on the floor, dozing on top of a rolled out sleeping bag.
He stirred. "Wha-?" He sat up, rubbing his eyes.
"I don't know. He moved first. I thought he just went to the bathroom. And you kept shoving me so I had to get off the bed."
Erica gave a sympathetic smile. "Sorry. Guess I'm used to sleeping alone."
They both turned as Hobbes came downstairs with two bags of groceries.
"Hungry?" he asked.
"Starving," Erica said. She picked up her blouse and pulled it on without doing up the buttons. She went to the kitchen area and poured herself a glass of water.
"I didn't think you'd appreciate dried rations so I went shopping." Hobbes tossed a variety of junk food onto the table.
"Can I have some water?" Jack asked, stretching.
"Sure." Erica filled two more glasses.
"I'm not sorry we did that, but I can't help but wonder what Ryan would say if he'd found us in a drug-induced haze," Jack said.
"Lizard boy can keep his opinions to himself," said Hobbes. "We're entitled to a bit of relaxation. And at least I was suggesting safe sex. If he'd been more careful, he wouldn't have knocked up his human girlfriend."
Erica opened a bag of chips and perched herself on a chair. "I only stopped you because it's easy to make mistakes when under the influence. People get pressured to do things they wouldn't normally do. And I was assuming Jack wouldn't be interested."
Jack paused with the glass halfway to his lips. "Well," he said, a faint blush appearing on his cheeks, "I might have considered it."
"Might have," Erica said through a mouthful of chips. She moved the bag away when Hobbes tried to steal one. "That's why I stopped you."
"Question is," Hobbes said, giving up and opening a bag of pistachios, "are you willing to consider it now?"
Jack looked over at Erica, his eyes travelling longingly over her cleavage. Then he met Hobbes's gaze.
"What you were saying, about times like these? I find myself increasingly wondering what I'm missing out on, and if I might ever get a chance to find out."
"But you're a priest," Erica said, still munching.
"I've always thought love was more important than anything else. Love is what faith is about, love for God and for other people." Jack finished the water. "I'm done toeing the line when the rules keep changing. I'm tired of the hate and misery and the worship of the Visitors. Let me follow my faith in my own way."
Erica finally stopped eating. "You want to do this? With me?"
"Yes," Jack said and there was a determination in his voice she'd previously only heard when he was decrying the Visitors. "With you." Then, to Erica's amazement Jack looked at Hobbes and said, "With you both."
Hobbes raised an eyebrow. "I'm game if Erica is."
Hobbes smiled. "All right then."
Erica may have been a woman of many talents but Hobbes was a man who was prepared for almost any eventuality. A locked drawer that he now opened contained ample supplies of condoms and lubricant, magazines and - Hobbes smacked her hand when she tried to investigate the rest of the contents.
"One thing at a time. This is kinky enough, don't you think?"
Jack was now pacing. He'd taken off his shirt and was barefoot but that was as far as he'd gotten.
"You best warm him up first," Hobbes said quietly and Erica nodded. While Hobbes reset the MP3 playlist that had started the afternoon's surprising turn of events, she once again took off her blouse. The first track was In-A-Gadda-Da-Vi da which seemed suitably blasphemous.
After the first few hesitant kisses, Jack began to take the lead, kissing Erica on her lips and then her neck. He ran his hands gently over her arms, taking her hands in his. Erica nodded in encouragement and he let go of her hands and pulled her to him.
Erica glanced over at Hobbes, who smiled at her. Apparently he was happy to wait, which was good, because this might take a while. Maybe he was enjoying the show, she thought.
It didn't take very long, actually.
"You did good," Erica said, clutching Jack to her, her hands in his hair. "You did good."
Jack lifted his head and smiled widely.
"Go clean up and we'll go again," Erica said.
When he'd gone on this errand, Erica sighed—more in dissatisfaction than contentment.
"A bit quick," Hobbes said. "If that'd been the full length track Iron Butterfly would still be playing."
"Cut him some slack," Erica said. "God knows how many years it's been since he had sex. I suppose you masturbate and yet deny yourself release just to improve your stamina."
He grinned. "Practice makes perfect."
"You're overdressed," she said, realising she'd get nowhere trying to embarrass him.
"Aren't you going to help?"
He shrugged and began taking off his clothes. Erica rolled onto her side and propped her head on one hand, watching. The Bobby Fuller Four were decrying the fact that they fought the law, but the law won.
When Hobbes was naked, she beckoned with one finger and he climbed onto the bed next to her. His mouth on hers was a different experience to kissing Jack. Hobbes was more certain, more forceful, and his stubble grazed at her skin—though she didn't mind, not any of it.
When Jack returned, wrapped in a towel, he watched. Erica glanced over once and decided the intense look on his face was interest rather than jealousy and returned her attention to Hobbes.
After a few minutes, when she was eager for him to stop toying with her, and take her, Hobbes actually drew back.
"Come on then," he said to Jack.
Jack put aside the towel and moved to join them. Hobbes grasped Jack's chin.
"You tell me to stop and I'll stop," he promised. "Do you understand?"
"Yes," Jack said hoarsely.
Hobbes kissed him, and Erica watched as Jack froze at the unexpected contact, only to relax and give himself over to the experience.
"You take her," Hobbes said. "Erica will help you along."
Erica did indeed help, but while she was manoeuvring Jack into position, Hobbes was busy licking and nipping at Jack's shoulders and back, his hands teasing at Jack's chest and nipples. To her perverse delight Dolly Parton was extolling the virtues of the son of preacher man even as she, Erica, was delighting in the preacher man himself.
"Erica," Jack breathed as he entered her, and she held him close, her hands sometimes meeting Hobbes's hands as they both explored Jack's body. "Kyle."
"Sssh," Hobbes said. "We're not even there yet."
"Be gentle," Erica warned, her concentration split between taking her pleasure and watching the two men.
"I will. I've done this before," Hobbes assured her. He moved to straddle Erica's legs, so he was now behind Jack.
"I'm not sure," Jack said suddenly and Erica reached up and dragged his head down to kiss him, anxious that the mood wouldn't be lost.
"You want me to stop?" Hobbes asked.
"No..." Jack moved to kiss Erica's cheek. "I don't want to stop..."
"Don't be frightened," Erica said.
"He's not ready for that, and that's fair enough. Give him to me," Hobbes said at last.
Jack withdrew and they all shifted position. Hobbes pulled Jack close, licking and kissing his chest, moving lower slowly and gently. Erica watched, masturbating to take advantage of her arousal. She intended to climax, one way or the other. To her surprise she found watching the two men more appealing than she'd imagined.
When Hobbes reached Jack's groin, Jack clutched at Hobbes's shoulders until his knuckles went white. Erica climaxed before Jack did and watched through heavily lidded eyes as Jack finally reached orgasm, praising God aloud in a very different manner to the one he normally did.
For a while they all lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling with its peeling paint, and getting their breath back and their thoughts in order. Build Me Up Buttercup faded out to be replaced with the heavier rock beat of Paint It Black.
"So," Erica said at last. "I've risked my career doing drugs and Jack has compromised his vocation with all this sex. What have you sacrificed, Hobbes?"
"Are you kidding?" He frowned. "I've just broken my own rule about sleeping with people I'm doing business with."
"I hope we're more than that," Jack said. "After what we've just done."
Hobbes frowned. "Not like you people pay me anyway," he complained, unwilling to be drawn on the subject. "Not strictly business without the money."
Erica turned her head to look at him. "Oh, I see. You think you're such a badass and untouchable. But you're not. You've let us get under your skin. You've sacrificed your distance."
"Look," Hobbes began, but Erica sat up and moved to kiss him. Instinctively he stopped trying to talk and responded to the kiss. Jack watched as they leaned over him, and when Erica drew back, he grabbed for Hobbes's hand, clutching at it.
"You care," Erica taunted.
"Erica," Jack said, and he said it quietly but forcefully. "Don't say it like that."
Hobbes shot her a smirk of satisfaction at the reprimand.
"I just mean that he has to admit, even if it's only to himself, that we're not just people who are trying to eradicate the Visitors. We're friends. Family, maybe."
"Lovers," Jack put in.
Hobbes glared at the speakers, now silent, having reached the end of the playlist.
"This was supposed to be about recapturing a simpler time."
"It never is a simpler time, though," Jack said. "We may look back on this time and see it as more romantic than it really was, but that's just nostalgia."
"I can think of a lot of things more romantic than making out in this basement," Hobbes said.
"Hobbes," Erica said. "Shut up. Put the music back on. And then come back to bed."
"Yes, ma'am." He clambered over her to do her bidding, possibly because it at least relieved him from having to talk about his feelings. Erica kissed Jack, trying to lock the memory of it in her mind. Times like these made it ever more essential to make memories to hold onto, memories that would be indeed even better through the rosy tint of nostalgic recollection.
When Hobbes came back, Jack moved over, manoeuvring him between them. It was Jack who nuzzled at the back of Hobbes's neck now, arms wrapped his chest. Erica kissed Hobbes, still not minding the stubble, while he wrapped his arms around her waist, one hand resting on her naked behind. It would make for a very good memory.