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In the After

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When Mayday set their mind to something, they moved fast. They always had. I was used to living in chaos, but it was always unexpected when something would happen with them. Just one day, one moment, a Martha rushed up to me, told me Hannah was on her way to Canada, and that I was to follow. Now. I got ready, and she hustled me out the door in the dead of night. I knew better than to ask questions. Before long I was concealed in the flatbed of a truck again, driving north.

This time, it was going to work. All of us would be out.

All of us, I thought as I swallowed, trying not to think about it, except Nick.

I hadn’t even seen him before I’d left.


It takes a week (much different from the first time I’d nearly gotten out), but I finally make it to the refugee center in Little America. Moira is talking with another worker there when she catches sight of me.

She runs over and throws her arms around me, tears already in her eyes.

“June,” she sniffles. “How are you here?”

“Right?” I reply as I squeeze her tight, my eyes shut. It’s warm now, and the air in Canada somehow feels better than that in Gilead. Clearer. Cleaner. Freer. I pull back and swipe my eyes, giving her a watery smile. “Yeah.”

Moira just shakes her head. She looks fantastic. Way better than when I saw her at Jezebels. She’s alive, but…not just alive, but she’s thriving.

“We have so much to catch up on,” she says. “So much to do. Let’s get you started here. Shit, that’s what I should be doing first. Fuck, where’s my brain?” She puts her hands on her hips and huffs out a laugh, looking down at the floor. She can’t believe it, either. The refugee center is bustling, and I look around, happy to see the escapees from Gilead.

Moira looks up again, grinning. “Luke is gonna spaz when he sees you, girl. I’m gonna type your name into our system first, so he gets the alert, and he’s gonna come in here, probably lift you off your feet…”

I grin, but a little of it feels forced. I want to see Luke, too. I can’t wait to see him. But my mind is in so many places right now. With Hannah, who is here somewhere. With Holly, somewhere else, hopefully still safe with Emily.

With Nick, the other man I love, back in Gilead.

“Is Hannah here?” I ask. “Did she make it?”

“Mm,” Moira replies, nodding. “Yeah, she’s safe. She’s with Luke. She’s been here a couple days. She told us she saw you, and you were pregnant, big as a house. Said she always knew she’d be back with you. Wants to see you again so much.” Moira sobers up, all joy clearing immediately from her face. “Waterford take your baby, that sick fuck?”

“Ah, no,” I say. “No, no, Holly is here. I got her out.” I shrug. “I was supposed to go with her, but…I stayed. Got some things moving to take Gilead down.”

And just like that, Moira’s joy is back. “Girl, you must have a guardian angel. Someone is looking out for you, truly.”

This time, forcing a smile is much harder.

Guardian angel indeed.


Moira has barely given me all of my refugee materials, which I am gaping over because how can anyone be this kind to people they don’t even know? when she tells me that Luke is here with Hannah.

“Go to them,” she murmurs, but all I can do is stare because there he is. There he is. The man I fell in love with so many years ago. He’s not the first man I fell in love with. I was in love with a boy in college – not real love, of course, but I thought it was at the time – and then I met Luke and I understood what real love was. Real love was someone you come home to, who does the dishes and takes out the trash, even (and especially) when they don’t want to. Real love is arguing over him buying the wrong thing at the store the second time in a row, and then realizing that yup, that’s what marriage is. Real love is growling at each other over the thermostat every winter.

Real love is hiding your true motivations from a horrible, corrupt government to save someone. Real love is holding your baby just once and still sending her away to safety. Real love is constantly putting yourself in harm’s way to save your family.

I look down, and tears fill my eyes. Moira mistakes them, even though I have tears for Luke, too. When I turn, he’s rushing toward me, and when he gets to me, he wraps me in the biggest hug ever. His cheeks are already wet. Hannah’s, too. She latches onto my legs.

“June,” he chokes out. “June…”

I lean back and wipe my eyes, smiling. “Hi,” I say. It’s insufficient. It’s not enough. “You look good.”

“You look amazing,” he replies with his own smile. “How did you get out?”

Moira steps in. “Questions later,” she says. “Let’s just get June settled, okay, tiger?”

He doesn’t leave my side.


We drive back to Luke’s apartment in silence. Hannah is quiet in the backseat. It’s hard to think of anything to say. The windows on the car are down. It’s a used car, a beater, and it rattles. I don’t mind. The only thing that’s hard is remembering the last time we were all in a car together, trying to escape Gilead. I have to take several deep breaths to remind myself this is not that time.

“Hey, you okay?” Luke finally asks, reaching over to take my hand. I turn to him with a wan smile, but I can’t speak. He says nothing and looks back at the road, fingers tightening around mine. “I thought we’d have Chinese.”

“Sure,” I say. “That sounds great.”

“Or pizza. Do you want pizza?”

“Anything is fine, really.”

“We could pick up Thai. There’s a little place – ”

I look over at him again. “Luke.” His eyes flick to mine, wary, worried. “Anything is fine.”

Luke nods and removes his hand from mine to clench it on the steering wheel. “Chinese it is.”

“I want pizza,” Hannah pipes up.

“Pizza sounds great,” I say, twisting around in my seat to look at her. “Pepperoni, Banana?”

Extra pepperoni,” she says in a surly tone. No pizza in Gilead.

I give her a big smile. “You got it.”

Luke says he’ll order the pizza after we get home. He asks if I want Moira over, too, but I say it’s too much and she’s working anyway. I just want to be with my family again. Luke can’t stop asking me questions. I know he can’t help it, but I wish he’d stop. He stays close to me when he takes me to the apartment building and up the stairs, like he’s guarding me. I’m holding Hannah’s hand, and he’s hovering uncomfortably. He means well, but I just want this day to be over already. I want normalcy in the worst way.

I want Nick here.

What we had was a kind of fucked-up normal, but it was our normal. I feel uncomfortable being back with Luke and Hannah, and I struggle to remember that this is my new life. This is what I wanted, what I yearned for, what I fought for. I struggle to keep my mind in the here and now. I briefly spoke with a counselor at the refugee center, and she said it was going to take a lot of time.

I hope they’re not paying her for that crackerjack advice.

Luke is carrying my belongings against my protestations, and he sets them on the kitchen table. Even though it’s warm, I had a hoodie with me, and he starts to slide it off my shoulders like I need someone taking care of me like that.

“Stop that,” I snap.

“I’m sorry,” he says, immediately letting go and holding his hands up as if scalded. I feel bad. He means so well. He always has.

“Mommy?” Hannah asks. I crouch down next to her, and Luke moves away to order the pizza. “Are you staying this time?”

I put my hands on her shoulders and brush her hair away. “Yes, Banana. I am. I won’t ever leave you again.”

I wrap her in a hug, thinking I will never get tired of hugging my daughter. My eyes close and I breathe her in, listening to Luke order pizza in the background.

It’s so normal and I love this right now. I do. I really do. Thoughts of Nick slide to the background of my mind.

But not for long.

“Where’s your baby?” Hannah asks, and my eyes blink open. I slowly lean back and look at her, into her questioning face. “Is your baby okay?”

“I hope so,” I say hoarsely. My chest is tight. “Aunt Moira is going to help me get her back.”

Hannah frowns, thinking. “Why did you have a baby with someone else?” she asks curiously. Her voice is so sweet, so innocent. I hope that other family was good to her. Kind.

“Oh, baby,” I say, tears burning again. In my periphery, I’m aware that Luke has concluded his phone call and is hovering again. I sit back on my heels, my hands in my lap, and try to figure some words out.

I didn’t want to. How do I explain that to a nine-year-old?

I didn’t do it on purpose. Or did I? Was Holly conceived that first time with Nick, when Serena gave me no choice, or one of the times after?

“Baby,” I say again, taking hold of her limp hands. “That was Mommy’s job back there.”

Is that okay to say?

This seems to satisfy Hannah, who nods. Luke guides her to the couch and turns the TV on for her. He flips it away from hockey over to a kids’ channel. She curls up with her stuffed bunny – I can’t believe Luke managed to rescue it – and watches.

He and I retreat to the kitchen.

“I heard,” he says quietly. “What Waterford did to you. That he got you…that he…” He swallows and looks down, and I’m filled with a wash of guilt and shame. I know it’s not fair to myself to feel that way – it wasn’t my choice to be a Handmaid (not really), and it wasn’t even my choice to start things with Nick. But there is still a large part of me that feels that guilt and shame, and I know it will only be worked out through therapy.

A lot of therapy.

Right now, though, I have to somehow deal with the fact that Luke doesn’t know the truth about Holly. He thinks she’s the product of a rape. What’s worse, I wonder? Him thinking Waterford got me pregnant via rape, or knowing Nick got me pregnant through either Serena’s efforts behind Waterford’s back, or consensual sex with him?

I didn’t know Luke was alive. It’s okay, what I did. Yes, I felt like I was cheating on him at first, but I wasn’t, I wasn’t.

Then why did I continue when I found out he was still alive?

I look away from him and press the heel of my hand to my mouth, thinking through this. I don’t know what to do. I wish Nick were here. His presence was always so calming.

“June?” Luke says. “It’s okay. We don’t have to talk about it.”

I nod vigorously, tears coming again, and Luke pulls me close. I hold onto his jacket, squeezing tears out.

“It’s all over now,” he soothes as he caresses my hair. “You don’t have to go back there ever again. You’re safe here.” He’s silent for a moment. “That guy who talked to me, your friend, is he the one who got you out?”

I nod again, and hearing Luke talk about Nick is too much.

I cry until the pizza gets here.

Chapter Text

I meet Emily a couple hours later at a coffeeshop. She looks great. Happy. Her brown hair is down, she’s wearing chunky glasses, color is back in her face. A simple gold band encircles her left ring finger.

“You found your wife and Oliver?” I ask hopefully when I see it, motioning. Emily glances down and smiles, her thumb rubbing over the metal.

“Yes,” she says. “I never thought I’d see them again. Sylvia has been reliving mommyhood all over again, having Nichole here.”

I look into the face of Nick’s and my daughter, gnawing on a teething mitten in my arms. She’s plump and healthy, her skin so smooth, blue eyes big. Her hair is dark like her dad’s.

“She doesn’t look like Waterford,” Emily says. “You’re lucky.”

“That’s because she’s not his.” Holly fusses, and I bounce her a bit. “Our driver, uh…”

“The Eye,” Emily supplies.

“Yes. The one who said to be careful of you?” Emily snorts and rolls her eyes. “Serena knew Waterford was infertile, so she suggested an alternative.”

Emily huffs and picks up her cappuccino. “Of course she did. She wanted that baby.”

“She did,” I say quietly, looking into Holly’s face again. “Holly.”

“Not Nichole?”

“No.” I don’t explain any more, and Emily doesn’t press. I don’t want to get into it.

“Well, hope he was better about it than Waterford,” she says. “Though I can’t see the difference. I’m so glad to be back with Syl. If I never see a dick again the rest of my life, I’ll consider myself lucky.”

I stroke my finger down Holly’s soft cheek, staying away from her mouth. She is really going to town on that mitten. “It was different,” I reply.

“Whatever.” Emily shakes her head. “At least you never have to see either of those pricks again.”

My eyes leave Holly and track over to Emily. She’s focusing on something across the room. Like Luke, she means well, but she doesn’t know the situation. She can’t possibly. Anyway, I owe her a debt of gratitude I can never repay. Maybe someday I can explain things to her. I could use another friend. Maybe someday, we’ll even go out with crazy Janine and get drunk and sing karaoke like I told her we would.

“Thanks for watching Holly,” I say. “You have my gratitude the rest of my life. Anything you need, don’t hesitate to call.”

Emily smiles. “I’ll remember that. You’ll be the first person I call when I need to move.”

“Oh, God, not that,” I say with a laugh. “I hate moving.”

Emily laughs back. She talks about how she and Sylvia reunited, how Oliver is doing, how she’s working on getting a job at a local college. I’m happy for her. I’m proud of her. She’s doing really well, and what’s more, she has her family back again. Her nightmare is over.

Holly is getting tired, so Emily and I decide to leave. She drives me home and helps me get all of Holly’s stuff up to Luke’s – my – our – apartment. There’s so much. I can’t believe how much she’s bought for this sweet little girl who isn’t even hers.

When the car’s unloaded, Emily hugs me, which I don’t expect, and we already have each other’s numbers from the refugee center. She promises to keep in touch, and I’m happy she’s here. She clasps my arm and gives me a smile, and then she turns to go. Holly is crying in earnest now, and Luke opens the door.

“Someone must be tired,” he says, smiling at the baby. “Hello, sweet girl!”

“In we go,” I say brusquely. It’s been such a long day, and I’m tired, too. I want to get the girls down, and I don’t want to think about how this is Nick’s baby. How I’m lying to Luke. How Nick isn’t here.

Luke moves off to put Hannah to bed, even though she really wants to meet the baby. Holly is unsettled, understandably so, and I have trouble getting her down – even with calming, lavender-scented bath bubbles and a bottle. But finally, she’s asleep in the pack-and-play Luke bought for her while I was with Emily (we’ll get a legit crib tomorrow), and I’m ready for bed.

When Luke rolls toward me, curls his body around me, pulls me back to him, I nearly jump out of my skin.

“Whoa, whoa, sorry,” he says, and I take a deep breath and will my heart to slow down. “I’m sorry, honey.”

“It’s okay,” I reply. “I was just startled, is all.”

“It’ll take time.”

“Yeah.”

Luke sighs, and I close my eyes and let out a breath. We’re both exhausted. However, I find I can’t sleep. All I can think about is Holly, and Nick. Nick stuck in Gilead. Nick far away from me. I’m so happy to have my family back, have them whole and together, but Nick is the reason I do. Nick risked his life for me yet again – for Hannah, too – and he’s not here with us.

“Your baby is beautiful,” Luke murmurs sleepily, breath stirring my hair.

“Yes,” I say through a tight throat.

He finds my hand under the covers, clasps it. “I’m glad she’s part of our family. That he didn’t steal her from you. If I ever see your friend again, I am going to buy him the biggest drink ever for rescuing you and Holly.” He squeezes and sighs again. “I’m glad he looked out for you. It’s too bad he’s stuck there.”

I turn my head away and press my lips together. A tear rolls down my cheek.


3 months later

 

The refugee center helped me get a job at a huge local bookstore. It’s called Pen and Paper, or “the P-n-P” for short. This is a terrible name. The store employs dozens of people, lots of whom are refugees. Some of their employees are in high school and like making jokes about the name. I don’t blame them. One clever seventeen-year-old named Burke decides to call it “PP,” and the girl he is telling is not impressed, but his buddy is. I watch them, holding a few John Grishams in my hands and being completely unimpressed myself.

But a part of me is amused and my heart feels a little lighter. High schoolers are the same everywhere in the free world, it seems, and these children are laughing and…free. They can make stupid bathroom jokes. They don’t have to be worried about their lives being ripped away from them.

The girl is nineteen – she started a month ago, two months after I did – and her name is Ashley. She looks so young. I’m reminded of Eden, who was even younger than Ashley and forced to marry. A child bride. She didn’t even mind it. She didn’t even know how wrong it was.

She died for her own damn piety.

What, you have to fuck someone you don’t want to? Poor thing.

Guilt and discomfort flood through me, and I focus on shelving the books. I love working at the P-n-P, but sometimes, it’s too quiet, and I’m able to think too much. While I put as much thought into my work as possible, there are times I can’t pull my thoughts away from the past. Now, I’m thinking about Eden’s death. Watching her die in that pool. Her coming to me for advice. The awful advice I gave her to grab love where you can find it.

She shouldn’t have listened to me. Not like that.

What I can’t think about is her worrying about Nick being a gender traitor. Him having to go through with it. We never talked about it. We never talked about a lot of things. But I know he listened to me. That night, after I told him to have sex with his fifteen-year-old bride, after he’d told me he loved me.

He waited until then to tell me. Until just that moment. In the Waterfords’ house, where we could have been overheard. (Serena would have freaked. She was jealous enough as it was.) He needed me to know then, before he went through with it with Eden.

Well, Eden, I think as I shove the books in their proper place, I hope you got something out of it. I hope it didn’t suck.

My first time was a hot mess, but it’s funny to look back on. Somehow, I know Eden’s wasn’t any good. She was fifteen! And Nick…he wouldn’t have…

I close my eyes and lean back against the window, taking a breath and centering my mind. I’m between two tall bookshelves, hidden from view. I focus on the sounds around me, a calming technique given to me by my therapist for my anxiety. I count the sounds, categorize them.

My phone buzzes in my pocket, startling me. The rhythm indicates a text message. I pull it out and see that the text from the refugee center.

My eyes widen, and I almost drop the phone.

This is an automated message from our Family Alert System, it reads. Your family member NICHOLAS BLAINE has been entered into our system.

My eyes immediately flood with tears, and my free hand presses to my open mouth.

He got out. He’s here.

I’m shaking all over, so hard that when I try to put the phone away, my clumsy fingers drop it onto the ground. I sink down into a crouch, arms folded on my knees, forehead down, and take deep breaths.

Nick is here. He’s safe.

I went through each day fearing for his safety and pushing away that fear, living in denial of it and trying not to feel it. It’s been three months. I can barely breathe.

Ashley finds me like this and asks me if I’m all right. I shake my head, unable to speak, and she leaves to fetch our supervisor. The P-n-P is well known for taking in refugees, and all staff are trained on how to handle them. (Some students, including Ashley, even do internships here to learn more about refugees.) In minutes Dave is crouching down next to me between the stacks, asking if I’m all right. It’s hard for me to trust him – I don’t trust men much anymore, even here – but after I explain the situation in halting words, that I got an alert about a member of my family, I let him lead me back to the breakroom to get my things.

He’s letting me leave immediately to go to the center.

Chapter Text


Moira greets me at the door as I rush in, heart pounding.

“Who’s this guy?” she asks skeptically. “He the one who got you out? Do I have to buy him a lifetime’s worth of Beefeater?”

“He likes whiskey,” I say without thinking, eyes searching everywhere for him. Then I remember to tone it down. Moira doesn’t know the story. She’s not going to be happy when she finds out the story.

“All right, whiskey. Whatever. I’m not picky. There’s your man.” She points.

Your man.

It’s not what she means, but the words pound into my chest and explode all the same. My heart is racing so fast it feels like it’s going to jump out and run away without me. Moira leads me to the room with tables and chairs and paperwork, and Nick is filling his out, head bent over it.

He looks exactly as I remember. Even down to the clothes. All black. Exactly as the Guardians always wore. Same watch. Same haircut. Same presence. My chest tightens too much. I don’t even remember that Moira is there until she speaks again.

“Well, I got a shit-ton of paperwork myself, so I’ll leave you be. See you Friday night?”

Nick looks up at her voice, and I stare into his eyes for the first time in three months. If he’s surprised to see me, he doesn’t let on.

God, how I’ve missed his eyes. His face.

His mouth. His hands.

Moira claps me on the shoulder. “Take care of yourself, June. I know it’s hard.”

Her hand leaves my shoulder, and I just stand there, utterly rooted to the spot. Nick finally speaks.

“Hey,” he says. His voice is rough. Neutral. He gives nothing away.

“Hi,” I say back, taking one step forward.

“How did you know?” he asks.

“You’re on my list.”

He’s silent a moment. “Your family list?”

I shrug. How can he be surprised by that? “You’re family, aren’t you?”

It’s more comfortable than admitting the truth.

“Sure.” He looks back down at the paperwork and focuses intently on it. I walk forward until I’m in front of his table, then slowly lower myself to sit across from him. A breath shudders out of me.

“It’s good to see you, Nick,” I say quietly, even though there’s no one else around. I just can’t bear to speak any louder. My voice won’t let me. “I never thought I’d see you again.”

“It wasn’t easy,” he says, mundane.

“I know. Thank you. For…everything. Getting all of us out.”

His pen pauses, but his eyes stay on the page. “Is Holly safe?”

“Yes,” I say with a smile, a tear finally slipping down my cheek. “Safe, and happy… She’s huge now. You wouldn’t believe it. Do you want to come over tonight and see her?”

I ask the question too quickly. Too hopefully. I didn’t give him enough time to warm up. To adjust to seeing me again. I know it right away.

The only thing he gives away is a brief tightening of his fingers on the pen. “I have a lot to get settled.”

Still, that catches me like a punch in the gut, and all the elation I’d felt immediately falls away, replaced by coldness. My smile drops clean off.

“You don’t want to see her?” I whisper, and a sob caught in my chest causes me to gasp.

“I do.” Nick starts writing again, pressing very hard on the paper. “There’s just a lot I have to – ”

I grab the pen from between his fingers and fling it away. It hits the wall and bounces off, falling to the linoleum with a loud clatter. “Would you fucking talk to me?”

Nick looks up, and I hate the blank look on his face. “I just don’t think it’s a good idea. You’re back with Luke, and – ”

“So?” I snap, aware I’m getting loud and people outside the room are going to hear. “You’re her father!”

Anger burns in my veins. It feels like that fight in the Boston Globe offices. You’re being so fucking stubborn.

Because you want to play the hero, is that what it is?

What the fuck are you talking about?

I shake my head quickly to clear it and look down, sniffling. Nick doesn’t say anything. Of course he doesn’t. I’m reminded sharply of how little I know about him, and fear creeps into my soul, fear that we won’t ever connect again, won’t be able to talk anymore because things are different, too different, even though it’s different in the best way because we’re free.

“Luke would want to meet you,” I try.

“I have met him.”

I slam my open palm on the table and stand. “Now who’s fucking stubborn?”

Nick purses his lips and looks down. He knows what I’m referring to.

“You are the hero this time, Nick,” I say quietly. “Let him thank you.”

It’s silent between us then, and I wonder if he’s thinking about that fight. That fight, and what came after it, the searing lovemaking. The most intense sex I’d ever had. It seemed like it’d been the same for him. He was…incredible.

I can’t.

Try.

He had.

My cheeks warm at the memory.

When Nick’s gaze catches mine again, there’s something there, and I can tell he’s thinking exactly what I’m thinking.

His resistance breaks.

“Okay,” he murmurs. “But I can’t stay long.”

“Fuck you,” I mutter. I don’t mean it, and neither does he.

Fucking nobleness. I want to punch him in the face. Then kiss him senseless and make love to him all night and never leave his bed.

Fuck me, I think as I look down and shove my hands in my pockets. I’m the one with the problem.

Nick goes to retrieve the pen, and I take the time to look over his paperwork upside down. His middle name is Alan (family name?). His birthday is in March. He’s thirty-five. There’s still so little I know, so much more to know. He continues his paperwork as I sit there, awkwardly scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, like I have a damn thing to post or anything to look at on there. Ashley from the P-n-P has been spamming IG with pics of her dog.

“Look at this thing,” I say, shoving the phone in Nick’s face. “Isn’t this the cutest mutt you’ve ever seen?”

It’s got ratty hair, big floppy ears, and a tiny tail. I love it.

“I like big dogs,” he says.

“Only men with something to prove like big dogs.”

It’s unfair and a low blow, and he hmphs. I smile and keep scrolling. Moira has posted an obscene cupcake from some bakery. I “like” the post and type, “Dessert porn.”

“How do you feel about porn?” I ask.

Nick doesn’t look up. “What.”

“Food porn.”

He doesn’t even answer, and I’m still smiling. Things are okay between us. I knew they would be.


Nick finally finishes up the paperwork and hands it to Moira, angrily clicking her mouse and glaring at her computer.

“Motherfuckin’ Windows,” she mutters as she takes the papers without looking at him. “All these advances in this day and age, and they can’t improve upon this shit operating system.”

“Good to see you again, too,” I say, leaning down and giving her a kiss on the cheek. “Friday.”

“Friday,” she affirms. “We’ll get good and drunk. Forget about our problems and not feel feelings like mature, well-adjusted adults.”

“Sounds good to me.”

Moira narrows her eyes and shakes her head at the computer. It has clearly done her personal insult. Then she swivels her chair and looks up at us. “We can get you set up with an apartment soon,” she says to Nick. “Couple of days. In the meantime, you can crash here. It’s not the Hilton, but it’ll do. Ain’t fuckin’ Gilead, that’s for sure.”

Nick opens his mouth, but I cut in. “Actually, I’m taking him to meet the family.” It’s not a 100% accurate statement, but it’s too much to explain to correct it. “He can stay with me.”

Nick shuts his mouth. I can see the gears churning in his mind.

He thinks too much. He needs all those thoughts fucked straight out of his mind.

Warmth explodes across my cheeks at the thought, and I blink.

Holy shit, June, I think.

Moira nods. If she senses anything weird between Nick and me, she doesn’t let on. I don’t think she knows. I hate hiding from her. “Great,” she says. “Luke will be happy to meet him.” She pauses. “Wait, this the guy who gave him the letters?”

“Yes,” I say with a smile. Moira lights up.

“Aw, man, I should be hugging you.” She jumps up and does just that. Nick stiffens, like he can’t believe someone would actually hug him, but Moira just clamps on tighter.

What is she going to do when she finds out? Do I have to tell her?

I have to tell her at some point.

How the fuck am I going to tell Luke?

I look down in shame.

I have no reason to feel ashamed.

I love Nick.

Fuck me.

Moira is talking about the letters, her hands still on Nick’s arms, and he’s still frozen, and I wish we could just go. Finally she stops talking at him.

“Well, I’d better let you two go,” she says. You two, I think. “You’re going to love Hannah. Luke’s a good guy, too. Thanks for getting our girl out and back with her family. You’re a good man.”

“You talk too much,” I say to Moira, steering Nick away.

“Shut the fuck up,” Moira says fondly, turning back to her computer.

Nick and I walk through the center and go outside, wordless. We get in my old car – we got a second one a month after I got to Canada – and it takes him a couple tries to buckle his seatbelt. He’s focusing very intently on it, and I realize…he’s upset. He has every right to be, given what Moira said.

“I’m sorry,” I say slowly. Awkwardly. My key is in the ignition, my body hunched over the wheel. “Moira, she’s…my best friend. She introduced me to Luke. He was married at the time. Makes me an adulteress. That’s why I was a Handmaid…” This just makes everything worse, and I wish I’d shut up.

Nick is staring out the window. “It’s not your fault.”

Of course he’d say that.

“Well, Moira’s right,” I say as I start the car. In the back of my mind, I think about how this is the first time I've ever driven Nick. He's always driven me. I wonder if he's sick of driving? “You’ll love Hannah. And Holly, she’s just so fun. Six months is a really fun age. She’s got this turtle that is a teething toy and she bites its head off – ”

“June.”

I stop. He’s right. I’m rambling. How does he know me so well? We barely know each other, and yet…we know each other better than I know Luke, better than Luke knows me. Better than Moira knows me, and that girl knows too much.

I let out a quiet breath. “Are we ever going to talk about any of this?” I ask softly.

Nick doesn’t reply. In my periphery, I can see he’s still staring out the window.

No, it seems. We will not.

Chapter Text

The daycare we take Holly to is utilized by a lot of refugee families. It has flexible hours and compassionate staff. With inconsistent hours and unreliable pay, that’s exactly what we all need. The staff are all wonderful, and I fell in love with them immediately. Alice is bouncing a sleepy Holly on her lap when I walk in.

“Hi!” she says when she sees me. “I thought you weren’t off till six?”

“Change of plans,” I say, indicating Nick. Obviously, I’m not ready to share just yet, so I simply say, “Family showed up.”

“That’s wonderful.” They’re used to people not sharing. Alice gets up and walks over to us, handing Holly off to me. She immediately wraps her fingers in my hair and yanks.

“Ow ow ow. Baby girl,” I say. “Her favorite pull toy,” I add to Nick.

He doesn’t respond. I don’t even think he heard me. He’s just staring at her, in awe, in wonder.

“I’ll just…sign her out,” I say, and walk over to the computer. After I do that, I turn to Nick. “Here,” I murmur, holding her out to him. He hunches over her when he takes her from me. It’s clear he doesn’t know what to do with babies. He’s not a natural, and he’s afraid of her. But he’s also clearly in love, and he can’t take his eyes off her. “I’ll get her things.” Still, Nick doesn’t hear me.

I gather Holly’s bottles, little insulated cooler, and car seat, and we head out into the bright sunshine. I swing the car seat a bit, smiling.

You know, I think about us. The three of us. What we could be. I think about it all the time.

I think about it, too.

Nick tries to get Holly into the car seat. He’s confused by the contraption, and I don’t blame him. It’s confusing as fuck, even for a seasoned mom like me. I help him out, our hands brushing. Holly stares at him, as if silently judging his ineptitude, which I find terribly endearing and hate myself for finding terribly endearing. When we buckle up in the front, Nick says,

“She looks like you.”

“No, she doesn’t,” I reply. “She looks like you.”

Our apartment is close. All the refugee housing and support networks are close. It’s a great little community, and already I love it here. In less than ten minutes, we’re home. I unclip Holly from the car seat base, and Nick takes the seat from me with both hands. I lead the way up to the apartment and unlock the door. Hannah is still at day camp for another couple hours, and Luke doesn’t get back till seven.

We have some time.

Nick looks around when he walks in, taking in the scene of my new life. There are pictures of us – Luke had a bunch printed – and I can tell it hurts him (how could it not?), but he won’t show it. He never would. He’s probably happy for me, genuinely happy, the stubborn bastard.

“She’s tired,” I tell him. “It’s her naptime.” Nick sets her down on the floor, and I unbuckle her from the seat. Then he follows me back to the room she shares with Hannah, which looks like pink exploded in there. I see his eyes track over it, mildly horrified probably, and I can’t help but smile. He watches as I rock Holly and she dozes off, and then I put her in her crib on her back. She sprawls, arms up over her head, blissed out in sleep. Nick wraps his hands around the crib rail.

“She’s beautiful,” he murmurs.

“Yes,” I say. “She is.” I rest my hand over his.

For a moment, we just watch her. Then he leaves the crib and the room, and I follow, shutting the door quietly behind me. The silence between us, then, as he looks down at me and I stare up at him, is deafening.

“I’m glad you’re here,” I say. “I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.”

“You don’t have to put me up,” he replies. “That might be…awkward.”

“Luke doesn’t know.”

“Good.”

Nick had told me he’d told Luke the baby was Waterford’s when he was in Canada, which was why I’d kept to that story. I don’t know why he even told Luke I was pregnant. Maybe he just had to get it off his chest. I can’t imagine Luke took the news well. It must have been hard. It’s good Luke doesn’t know – yet – but hearing Nick say that it’s good…it hits a raw nerve. I frown.

“He’s going to find out eventually,” I say. “Holly doesn’t exactly look like Waterford.”

“Keep it a secret as long as possible.” Nick turns and walks back toward the living room. I follow after him.

“You don’t get to dictate how I run my life.”

Nick turns abruptly in the middle of the room. “You want to tell him? You want to ruin what you have?”

“What do you know about what I have?” My temper is burning bright, my heart pounding. “Or what I don’t have?”

His lips compress briefly.

“You have everything,” he says evenly. “This is what you wanted.”

I shake my head and break his gaze. It is what I wanted. So why do I feel like shit?

“Maybe Luke and I need to get away for a couple days,” I say. “Reconnect.”

Why the fuck am I talking to Nick about this?

“I really don’t have to stay here,” he says.

I look up at him again, and the air between us is electric. My desire for him burns as hot in my veins as my anger. I thought seeing him again would be easy, make me feel so much better, and it isn’t. It hasn’t. I had hoped beyond hope that having both Nick and Luke here in Canada wouldn’t be difficult, that my feelings for Luke would come rushing back and…

And what? I’d just…forget about Nick? The man I’d had another child with? Whom I’d told I loved?

Don’t say it don’t say it don’t say it.

I say it.

“I still love you,” I whisper.

He swallows. “Don’t,” he says. “You can’t anymore. Don’t do this to yourself.”

“No,” I say, shaking my head as tears come again. “Don’t tell me what to do. Don’t.”

And then I’m full out crying again and he’s pulling me into his arms, one of his hands cradling my head, like he always used to do. How is it possible that I’m free here, and yet I feel trapped? I hold onto him as I cry, emotions battering me around.

“You said we should run away,” I say. “The three of us. Start over.”

“Did you really think that was going to happen?” he says gently, but it sparks fury hot and bright.

“Don’t,” I snap, jerking back and smacking him in the chest with both palms. “You’re doing this on purpose, being a fucking martyr.”

“What else do you want me to do? What other solution do you see here?”

He’s right, and I hate it. He ends up leaving, and I don’t know where he goes.

I stay home and sob.

Chapter Text

That night, I plan a surprise for Luke. We haven’t made love since we’ve been reunited, and it’s time to change that. Nick is right, about everything. We can’t be together, and that’s fine. I need to be with my family – he’s right that it’s everything I fought for – and I need to move on. Once things cool down between us, I’ll contact him and we’ll figure out how to work out visitation with Holly. I want him to be involved in her life. He will be a great father. I can see it already.

I’ve got it all worked out.

I’m feeling good about this plan and in a good mood that evening. I’m flirty with Luke, and he asks what’s going on. After the girls are in bed, I pounce him. I think he means to be slow and gentle, but it’s been so long since we’ve been together that he’s too fast. Our sex life has never been electric – satisfactory, but not like what I had with Nick – and when we finish, I’m left feeling cold, staring up at the ceiling and feeling morose. I think about how many times I would come with Nick, how good he was at teasing every last pleasure from my body, how he focused on me and took his own pleasure in making me feel good.

The proper word, really, would be that he worshiped me.

Luke loves me. I know that. He likes making me feel good. It’s mutual. I enjoyed our lovemaking. It was fine. But it was also clumsy and I felt like we had no rhythm, like it was sloppy and just…lifeless. Nick made my body come alive in that dead place, and sure, it was in a horrific situation, so my nerves were attuned to it more than they would be in a place like Canada where we’re free, but I can’t help comparing the men as lovers and thinking about how turned on Nick got me, how I waited breathlessly for those moments to be alone with him, how I kept them in my heart to replay them over and over and over in my mind for hours afterward. How I fell asleep each night to the thought of him.

How much I loved him and still do.

Nick’s face was in my mind as I was with Luke tonight. I’m cheating on Luke emotionally.

It’s already over.


In the morning, Luke is as flirty as I was last night, like we are a new couple who has just made love for the first time. I am cold and distant.

“What’s wrong?” he finally asks as he makes pancakes. We have half an hour till we drive Hannah to school, and he’s up early. Hannah is coloring in the living room, oblivious. Holly plays on the floor next to her, bashing a caterpillar rattle against the carpet.

I look down at my coffee mug and scrape at the rim. “Nothing, just… Yesterday was kind of hard.”

I don’t want to talk about it.

“So was I,” he says with a grin.

What a fucking stupid joke.

“Nick is here,” I say, my face stony. I’m not in the mood for sexy jokes.

Luke’s face falls. “Why didn’t you say something?”

My eyes slide away from his again, and I shake my head. I can’t stand to look at him right now. “Just…thought it might be awkward.”

Awkward? Hell, I want to give this man a medal!”

“Right,” I mutter.

Luke goes back to the pancakes and flips them. “We should have him over sometime. Make him part of the family. Far as I’m concerned, any person who risked their lives to smuggle those letters out of godforsaken Gilead, then got you and your baby out, is good in my book – ”

“Holly is his.”

My husband freezes in mid-action. Just goes completely rigid. “E…xcuse me?” he finally says after what is too long of a moment.

“Mrs. Waterford made me,” I explain, because I’m a coward. “Commander Waterford was sterile, so she suggested we try a different way. She really wanted a baby.”

I watch as he processes this news. It takes a few moments, of course. “Oh.” Then another moment. “He lied to me.”

“I know.”

“Why?”

Then I lie: “Maybe he didn’t know.”

“It sure as hell sounded like he knew.”

“Well, it was probably pretty awkward, then, don’t you think? Wouldn’t you have beat him up?”

“For raping you? Yes.”

My fury comes back, and my fists clench. “Nick did not rape me,” I say in a low voice. “Do not ever say that again.”

Luke turns off the stove and turns around to me. His face changes when he sees the look on mine. “Then what would you call it?” he asks gently. He’s not being accusatory now, and I soften. He. Means. Well.

“Mrs. Waterford made him,” I say. “He had no choice. He couldn’t say no. We were mutually forced.”

Luke deflates and sets his hands back against the counter, spatula still in one of them. “That place,” he says. “It’s horrible. ‘Horrible’ is a joke. ‘Horrible’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.”

“Is it worse for you now, knowing this?” I ask. “That she’s Nick’s instead of Waterford’s?”

“No,” he says, a musing tone in his voice as he continues to process. “It’s better. He seems like a decent guy. I hope…” He swallows, his throat working. “I hope he was gentle with you.”

“He was,” I whisper, and turn away to go get dressed.


I’m at the P-n-P later that evening, working with Ashley on children’s books. This is my favorite section. I come home with employee-discounted clearance books for the girls more often than not. Ashley is my favorite person to work with, even though she’s just nineteen and has no clue what horrors I’ve been through. She wants to work with refugees, and the P-n-P is her summer internship during college. I’m her pet project, I guess.

“You seem sad today,” Ashley says as we organize the books. “What’s up?”

I shrug. “Family stuff,” I say. “It never gets easier.”

“It will,” she says, crackerjack advice, but she sounds so hopeful and like she truly believes it. “Your family loves you so much.”

“I know they do.”

There’s nothing more to say. Ashley must sense my mood, and she lets me be. After maybe ten minutes, she says,

“I don’t want to freak you out, but this guy just walked in, and I think he’s looking for you? He’s kind of lurking, but on the bright side, he’s wicked hot.”

I pause, three potty training books in one hand and two Peppa Pig in the other. Could it be…?

Slowly, I turn around, and there he is again. Nick is standing by one of the reading tables, and God. Fuck me up. He’s in jeans and a button-up rolled up to the elbows, his hands in his pockets, and my whole reproductive system catches fire and I hate myself.

“You’re, like, staring back,” Ashley says, bringing me back to the present. “Is this what old people do? Am I gonna turn into you? Creepy.”

“Shut up, you have a crush on Burke and won’t admit to it,” I snap back at her good-naturedly.

“I do not!” But she turns her back to me so I won’t see her blush, and furiously starts organizing all of the feelings books.

I approach Nick, still holding the kids’ books, which I quickly put down on the table when I realize they’re mostly about the toilet. “What are you doing here?” I ask.

“Can you take a break?” he says.

“Uh, sure. Let me just…”

“I’ll tell Dave,” Ashley, eavesdropper, traitor, says. I have no choice but to go with him to the bookstore’s café. He orders a venti, black, probably going to wear the enamel completely off his perfect teeth and burn a hole in his stomach, and I get a cappuccino. He pays, which he doesn’t have to, but he won’t listen to my protestations. I want to say something flirty – So is this a date? You sure know how to treat a girl right. Date much? – but of course, I don’t. It’s not the right time or place.

He used to flirt. Sort of. At one time.

You look pretty.

Thanks. I wore it just for you.

You shouldn’t wear anything for me.

And I didn’t. I think he liked me best that way.

“So what’s up?” I ask, failing at being casual. Nick is studying the mosaic tabletop.

“I’m sorry about yesterday,” he says. “I do want to be involved in Holly’s life. I just don’t want to be a problem.”

I smile and wrap my hands around the large cup. “You could never be a problem, Nick.”

“You fought so hard to get your family back – ”

“Things are already over with Luke.”

He closes his mouth. Nods. “He knows?”

“About Holly. I told him. Creatively.”

Nick nods again. “I wish…we could tell him the truth. About us. That we didn’t have to hide it.”

I wish that, too. “I know.”

“We shouldn’t have to be ashamed.”

We shouldn’t. “I know.”

His eyes flick up to mine, and I see pain there. Longing. Hurt. Too much. I’ve caused some of it. It’s my fault.

“I still think those things,” he says, gaze on mine, face totally open. I can see everything on it now, and it hurts me, too. I feel myself break apart, barriers and defenses down. I’m helpless against him. “About the three of us. I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help it.”

“I know,” I whisper, and I can’t help it, either: I reach out to take his hands on the table. He lets me.

“I don’t want to make your life here worse. That’s all I’m going to do.”

I shake my head. How could he ever think that? “Never, Nick. You made my life bearable for years.”

He looks toward his lap, coffee completely forgotten, and his hands tighten on mine. “You, too.”

My break is up in a few minutes. I try again. “Luke has a late shift tonight. Come over for pizza. Chinese take-out. Indian. Thai. Something. He won’t be back till ten. We can watch Netflix. Be a family for a little bit.”

Nick looks up at me. He doesn’t smile, but he also doesn’t hesitate. “Sure,” he says. “That sounds really nice.”


I pick up Hannah and Holly around 4:15. If we’re not around to get Hannah after day camp, a bus takes her to the daycare. Nick is with me, and Hannah remembers him.

“You were there at the house when Mommy had her baby inside her,” she says, frowning. He stares at her, probably not sure what to say. “Who are you?”

“Manners, Hannah,” I chide gently. “This is Mommy’s friend, Nick.”

“Oh.” She’s immediately disinterested and starts packing up her backpack. “I’m hungry.”

“Of course you are.” I ruffle her hair and look up at Nick with a smile. “Kids are always hungry.”

“Good to know,” he says.

We pack the girls up in my car and drive home. To my home, not to Nick’s. I don’t know where he’s staying right now, and I don’t ask. Probably the refugee center. I wonder if he’s lonely. If he thinks about me as much as I think about him.

It’s always a mad rush getting the girls and all their crap up the stairs and into the apartment. I direct traffic, telling Nick where to put everything, admonishing Hannah about getting into the snacks, and assuring Holly that I’m going to snuggle her. Nick looks lost in the whirlwind, lost and in wonder. Finally Hannah is situated on the living room floor with a kitten coloring book, her crayons, a bowl of Goldfish crackers, and a juice box, and Holly has been appeased with yogurt bites and teething biscuits she quickly turns into a mushy mess. She has absolutely no compunction about slobbering on Nick’s shirt and making a wet spot on his shoulder. He eyes her and she stares back, calculating.

She’s too smart. Like her mom.

We’re sitting at the kitchen table, and I watch Nick and Holly together, feeling a little smile on my face that I can’t quite hold back and don’t want to. I reach up and caress the back of Holly’s head, hair powder soft.

“I think she likes you,” I say. Nick is silent, not surprisingly. He’s never been much for words. He holds his index finger up to her, and she immediately snatches it up in her little hand and brings it to her mouth. “Careful,” I warn. “She’ll bite it off.” I make a face at her, and she giggles. Holly knows what’s up.

“Serena named her Nichole,” Nick says. “I hate that.”

“‘Holly’ suits her way better,” I say, reaching out to her head again. She stuffs her whole fist, covered with biscuit mush, into her mouth. Then she pulls it out and sneezes directly into Nick’s face, spraying him. He flinches, eyes closed, nose scrunched up.

It’s horribly adorable.

I try not to laugh as I reach over for a baby wipe. Both of his hands are occupied with the baby, so I wipe his face off. His eyes open as I do it, and they meet mine. The look he gives me is tender, and I feel the electricity between us again and wish I didn’t.

I’m a coward and I look away, setting the wipe down on the table.

“You always need wipes everywhere,” I say. “Lesson one.”

At this moment Hannah comes over to ask for another box of juice, and I tell her no. She can have water. She groans about it, but relents, like always. Without prompting, Nick takes Holly over to her corner of toys, sets her down on the floor, and sits next to her, pulling the basket of toys out and holding a shape sorter cube out to her. She promptly picks up a triangle, tries bashing it into the square hole, and then throws it when it doesn’t work. Nick starts going through her book collection, nonplussed.

This is how the rest of the night goes. It’s all completely what I want: normal. Nick is awkward in my apartment, clearly uncomfortable there, overly polite when he asks for things (“Do you have a restroom?” Why, yes, Nick, I do.). Hannah doesn’t talk to him much. She is dead-set on finishing the kitten coloring book, because she begged for a new fancy-pants one that does some digital shit just last week and I told her she couldn’t have it until she started going through what she did have. Naturally, she’s set out to prove me wrong and is determined to get that overpriced thing. Finally, she broaches conversation.

“Do you like cats?” she asks.

“I like all animals,” he says.

Animal lover. Be still my heart. I push hamburger around the skillet. Tacos for dinner tonight. Holly will object loudly. She does not stand for beef.

“Favorite animal?” Hannah quizzes.

“I don’t have a favorite.”

“That’s stupid.”

“Hannah,” I admonish.

She completely ignores me. “I don’t like birds,” she says.

“I like birds,” Nick says quietly. “They can go wherever they want.”

I look up. His hands are clasped in his lap, and he’s staring, unseeing, at our daughter.

Hannah is already bored with this line of conversation. “I could give you a makeover.”

Nick has already recovered from wherever the talk of birds took him. “I’m okay, thank you.”

Hannah shrugs and brushes him off. “Your choice.”

“Dinner, guys,” I call, my heart swelling just a little as I take in the scene. My mind fills with images of this as our future, Nick and me cooking for our family in our little, cozy apartment, playing on the floor with our girls. Hannah has to be told twice to set the table, and Nick helps her after clicking the tray into place on Holly’s high chair.

We sit down to eat, and it is all so peaceful.

 

When the girls are in bed, Nick and I have two and a half hours to ourselves. I’m not sure what to do with the time. I suggest a drink, since we are both obviously so nervous. He takes his whiskey on the rocks. I make a strong Jack and Diet Coke, then bring both tumblers over to where he’s sitting on the couch and hand him his. His fingers brush mine, and I hope he doesn’t see me shiver. I set my drink down, fold my leg under me on the sofa, and sit.

“TV?” I ask, picking up the remote.

“Sure,” he says. He takes a sip right away.

There’s a channel that plays American sitcoms from the ’90s. We watch Home Improvement and 3rd Rock from the Sun. I laugh a lot at the innocent jokes, and I catch Nick smiling. Relaxing. I slap his leg at one particularly good bit on 3rd Rock, and I lean in close to him.

Somehow, I find myself closer and closer. Leaning my weight against him.

He lets me.

He holds his drink in his hands between his knees. He doesn’t look at me. His eyes stay focused on the TV screen. I can tell he is trying very hard not to look at me.

It’s time for a commercial.

“So, um,” I say as I turn toward him, my knees bumping his thigh. “You’re good with the girls.”

“Am I?” He takes a sip of his second drink, even though it’s just melted ice by now.

I don’t reply, waiting until he looks at me. Maybe it’s the alcohol burning and tingling in my blood, but I reach my hand up and brush the backs of my fingers across his cheek.

“You’re a great dad.”

His gaze has now locked on mine. The desire between us is undeniable. He can feel it, too. My hand on his cheek brushes back to his hair, while my other hand moves to his thigh. He doesn’t remove it. I lean further into him, captivated by him. He’s pulling me in, as he always has, and I can’t resist it. I don’t even want to.

But then he speaks.

“June,” he says hoarsely. “Don’t.” I stop, feeling slightly stunned. Nick shakes his head slowly. “I won’t wreck your family.”

“Fuck you, Nick,” I breathe, and grab his face to pull his lips to mine.

Twice an adulteress.

Chapter Text

Nick’s words are just as useless to him as they are to me. He kisses me back right away, and I fall backward on the sofa with him over me, supporting his weight on his hands. His hips are in line with mine, pressing into me, and he moves, reminding me, flooding me with arousal. I want more of him, all of him, and I don’t want to stop. His mouth is so good – it’s always been good everywhere on me – and his tongue slides against mine as we deepen our kiss. His breathing is already heavy, and I can tell he’s getting really turned on. I can feel him, between my legs, and he doesn’t even try to hide it.

“I want you,” he whispers, cupping my breast through my shirt as he kisses the exposed skin. “So fucking much.”

“Me, too,” I breathe back. I want him all over me, inside me, filling me up and taking away that ache that’s begging for him. I haven’t felt that way about Luke for the three months we’ve been reunited – didn’t even feel that way for most of the three years we were apart – but Nick and I haven’t even been in the same place for two whole days and I can barely stand to be near him again.

“Kiss my breasts,” I say, pushing one up out of my shirt and he doesn’t even hesitate, just immediately lowers his mouth and takes the nipple in to suck lightly. My head falls back and I suppress a moan, grabbing onto his shoulders.

Luke and I actually had sex last night. And I didn’t moan once. All Nick is doing is kissing my tits, for God’s sake.

Fuck. Me.

God, I wish he’d fuck me.

His other hand is between my legs, skillful fingers rubbing over the too-thick material of my jeans. My underwear is already damp. My body wants him. It’s wet and open and ready, dying for him to fill it, with anything. Fingers, tongue, cock, I don’t care (but I know what I really want). He’s so hard between my legs.

Nick nudges my face aside to kiss my neck. “I want to be inside you,” he whispers, voice close to my ear.

“Mommy?”

Once a cheater, always a cheater.

We spring apart, and my heart thuds painfully in my chest. Hannah is right there at the entrance to the living room. I pray she didn’t see anything.

“What’s wrong, Banana?” I ask in as normal a voice as I can manage. No good. My voice shakes.

“I can’t sleep.”

“Okay. I’ll lie with you.” I get up, not looking at Nick, but out of the corner of my eye I can see him try to readjust. Good luck, Nick. With a hard-on like that, no amount of readjusting is going to help.

Hannah shuffles off to her and Holly’s bedroom, and I follow. Holly is still completely passed out, flopped over onto her belly with her little butt in the air (she always rolls over). I gently turn her onto her back, for whatever good that’ll do, and then slide into bed next to Hannah and put my arms around her. She cuddles into me and soon falls back asleep. Despite how much I want to be with Nick, this is still the best thing in the world and nothing compares: cuddling my little girls to sleep. I’m drowsy when I climb out of the bed, careful not to disturb her, and make my way back to Nick. He’s standing by the door with his hands in his pockets, looking at the table next to it, which has a little wicker basket that holds our keys and spare change…

And framed pictures of my family.

Nick is still just my lover. He is not my husband.

“I should go,” he says. There’s nothing I can do but nod and agree.

“Do you want to come over again, see Holly again?” I ask. My gut twists, because his tone is off. I just know what the answer is going to be. He’s stiff, not facing me, staring at the photos and I wish he’d fucking stop staring at the goddamned photos.

“Maybe when Luke’s here,” he answers, and my heart plummets. His head drops, and he swallows. “I don’t want to wreck your family. I won’t.”

My eyes prick with tears, and I swallow, too. My body has already cooled, but now it’s becoming icy.

“You won’t.” It’s a dumb response.

We’re being stupid. You know we’re being stupid.

“Nick…”

“I should go,” he says again, more urgently this time. He finally looks up at me, and his face is as closed-off as ever. “See you, June.”

Then he’s gone, the door closing behind him and leaving me in the dark silence of the apartment.


Luke doesn’t ask that night why I’m crying. He knows I just do. I cry. A lot. He’s supportive. I don’t tell him Nick was over. I don’t want to. It’s none of his fucking business anyway.

I hate that thought. It’s so wrong. I have to tell him the truth. Sometime. When I’m feeling up to it.

“Sometime” happens sooner rather than later.

“How was your night without Daddy?” Luke asks Hannah in the morning as he ruffles her hair and puts cereal in front of her.

“Good,” she says after shoving in a mouthful of generic Kix. “Nick wouldn’t let me give him a makeover, though.”

Luke’s head jerks up and his eyes meet mine. My heart gives the same thud as last night.

“He stopped by the P-n-P,” I say casually with a shrug, and wow, does it ever come out easily. It’s not a lie, but… I continue. “I offered for him to come over and see Holly.”

“Oh, that was nice.” Luke smiles. It’s a little forced, but he’s trying. He means well.

Hannah smiles and wrinkles her nose. “Mommy was kissing him. Ewwww.

I’m horrified but keep my face blank. Luke’s eyes widen, his mouth drops open the tiniest bit, and he looks crushed.

“That’s silly, baby girl,” he manages, turning away from us.

“Luke…” I start.

“Let’s get you off to school.”

It’s stone cold in the car as we drive Hannah to day camp and Holly to daycare. It’s even worse when Luke and I drive back to the apartment alone, me staring out the window and not daring to look at him. The minute we’re back inside, he explodes.

“What the fuck, June?!”

“It’s not what you think,” I blurt, hands up. I drop my hands. “Shit. I mean…”

Luke looks consternated. He doesn’t understand. I know. I don’t blame him.

He’s nodding now, way too fast, and he pulls me to him in a hug. “It’s okay,” he says, and I’m surprised because this is not the response I was expecting. “I get it. He’s the father of your child. I was out last night. I’m sure you were lonely. I forgive you. It’s okay.”

I frown into his chest. “What? No – ”

“It makes sense,” he continues like I haven’t even spoken. “He’s a part of your past, and he helped you out. A goodbye kiss, right? I’m sure that’s all Hannah saw. Kids get confused. I’m sorry I’ve been gone. I can try to get better shifts next month. I forgive you, honey. What you went through is so hard. I’m sure you just got confused, or – ”

“What the fuck?!” I snap, pulling away. Then I shove him in the chest. “Don’t tell me what I’m thinking!”

Luke shakes his head slowly, like I’m the one who isn’t fucking comprehending. “I’ve talked to others about trauma, and I think this makes perfect sense – ”

You are not making any sense.” My hands ball into fists, and all the words are there, in my mouth, and they’re about to explode out. “I thought you were dead. I slept with him.”

“I know. That’s how you got pregnant.”

Is he being deliberately dense?

“No,” I say in a low voice. “I slept with him. Again and again. After that.”

Realization finally dawns on Luke, and the guilt drapes down over me. I see him struggle to maintain control.

“I understand,” he says. “You thought I was dead. I get it. It’s fine.”

But tears are in my eyes now, because this is it. This is the moment I have dreaded for months. It’s horrible, because Luke is trying so hard to make me look innocent. To give me an excuse. A reasonable one that doesn’t make me a cheater like he was. I shake my head.

“I’m sorry, Luke,” I whisper. “Even when I found out you were still alive, I went to him. I fell in love with him. I’m so sorry. But I’m not who you think I am anymore. I’m not.” I pause, my lips pressing together, trying to hold back the words I know I have to say. “This isn’t working. You know it isn’t.”

Luke’s face crumples, and his head drops. “I cheated on my wife,” he says morosely, “and you cheated on me. I deserve it.”

“This has nothing to do with you,” I say. “I needed someone. I desperately needed love in that awful place. Can’t you understand that?”

“I’m sorry, that’s not what I meant. I do. I do understand that, June, I do. I can’t hold it against you. I love you, I always will, but I know as well as you do that this isn’t the same. I don’t think it will ever be. Not after what has happened. We’re both different people now.” When he looks up again, there are streaks of tears on his face. “I’m so sorry, June. I’m sorry, too.”

He’s saying it like he needs me to forgive him. What did he do…?

“I wasn’t faithful, either,” he says. “I found someone, too. I was alone here for so long, and I thought I’d never see you again. I couldn’t bear it. I stopped seeing her when you came back, and I didn’t love her, but…”

I start crying harder, and I don’t even know why I am. This all just sucks so bad.

“You lied to me,” Luke says. “You kept lying to me. Then you cheated on me when we were back together, in our home, with our daughter sleeping nearby.”

He’s making me feel like a whore. I don’t like it.

“You need to shut up,” I say in a low voice. “It was never going to work out between us. You’re right that I shouldn’t have cheated last night, and I’m sorry I did. That wasn’t right. But I’m not going to apologize for being with Nick in motherfucking godforsaken Gilead, and I’m not going to apologize for having his baby, and I’m not going to apologize for being in love with him.”

Luke shakes his head, maybe at himself, maybe at me, maybe at both of us, and a handful of emotions flickers over his face. Pain, anger, betrayal, sadness… I hate myself all over again.

“I still love you,” I say gently. “I always will, Luke. I just can’t love you the same way I used to.”

“Because of Nick.”

“No,” I say honestly. “No. Not because of Nick. Because of Gilead.”

“This is my fault. I cheated on Annie, and I made you an adulteress. It’s because of me that you were a Handmaid. Because of me you got raped every fucking month. Because of me you met Nick, because of me you…” He breaks off and turns away, hands on his hips. “I can’t deal with this, June. I can’t.”

“There are counselors,” I say. “At the refugee center.” I give him a moment, then speak again. “I never wanted to hurt you. It wasn’t anything at first. Serena made us. Forced us. She raped both of us. But then we…” I stop. It’s not going to help.

Luke turns back around. Comes over to me. Slides his arms around me, pulls me close and holds me tight. “I love you, June Osborne. I hate myself for what I did to you. From day one I didn’t do it right.”

“Luke, don’t,” I say, hugging him around his neck. The tears fall fresh down my cheeks. “You’re a wonderful father. A good person.”

“I want you to be happy,” he says. “That’s all I’ve ever wanted for you. And I prayed for it. I prayed every night that I’d get you and Hannah back, and if I couldn’t, that you could find happiness there somehow. God answered my prayers. All of them. Through…” He swallows, then says in a funny voice, “Him. I’m…I’m glad, June. It’s not easy. It’s fucking hard as hell. It won’t be easy in the future. But I love you too damn much to hate you or be angry or to not let you go. I love Hannah too much.” He pulls back. There are still tears in his eyes, but his face has cleared of the pain, and love and tenderness have replaced it. “There’s been too much pain. Too much suffering and hate. From Gilead.” He holds my chin in his finger and thumb. “I just want happiness and peace. Especially for you. The strong mother of my little girl. You’re everything to me, both of you.” He gives a little laugh, and then he says brokenly, “You know I’ve never been able to say no to you.”

I smile back, and he leans down and kisses me softly. I know in my heart that it’s going to be our last kiss.

“I love you, June,” he says. “I always will.”

Chapter Text

I don’t want to put a wall up between Nick and me and miscommunicate, but I don’t know what to say. I also don’t have his phone number. So the ball is in his court. Moira and I are going out on Friday, and I’m both looking forward to it and dreading it. I have to tell her, and I know she won’t be happy about it.

We’re a couple drinks in at a club she likes – it’s a gay club, which is perfectly fine by me because then I won’t be groped by men – when I have the courage to tell her. (Also, I’ve been taking self-defense classes as part of my healing, a way to “take back control,” and I’m pretty sure I would break both arm and cock of any man who tried to touch me.)

“Luke and I, uh…” The way I start this is already a failure. I’m not even looking at her, instead scratching at a dried splotch on the bar top. “We’re getting divorced.”

“The fuck?” she exclaims. She’s looking at me like I’ve just said something truly revolting. “The fuck did that happen? The fuck did that come from?”

“Would you please stop saying ‘fuck’? This is really hard on me.”

“Okay,” she says, shaking her head in disbelief and, probably, disappointment in me. “Continue.”

I decide to just…go for it. “Holly is Nick’s, Nick and I were sleeping together in Gilead, I fell in love with him, I’m still in love with him. So. Yeah.”

Moira stares at me, processing. Then she finally speaks. “That’s…not okay.”

My eyebrows come together. “That’s not your choice. Or place to judge.”

“I am not okay with this.”

“Moira – ”

“No.” She holds her hands up, clearly pissed off. “Fucking no. Luke is your husband. He’s the father of your child. He’s fucking family to me. He kept me sane here. He took me in. He’s a good man. And you…you fucking went and banged some other man? Behind his back? And this guy got you pregnant like they wanted.”

I’m hit with a steel wall of pain at her words, before I remember that she doesn’t know the story. I force the trauma to recede back into my brain, where I can unbox it later in therapy.

“No,” I said. “I was forced to. Serena really wanted a baby, and Waterford couldn’t produce one.”

“It was all your fault, of course,” Moira cuts in, rolling her eyes, and I’m grateful that there’s a tiny bit of her still on my side.

“Right. She said a lot of Handmaids tried other ways, and we should use someone we trusted. Well, someone she and Waterford trusted.”

“So she made you fuck their driver. Man, that’s fucked up.” She takes a deep swig of her beer.

“Yeah, I know,” I agree. “He, obviously, is not sterile.”

“I’m calling him Daddy Eyebrows from now on.”

“Call him what you like,” I say, hoping she’s easing up.

“Asshole.”

“Okay, not that.”

“Well, you can’t fault yourself, then,” Moira says. “That’s not exactly cheating. Did you even know Luke was still alive?”

I shake my head. I need to be clearer. She’s in denial. “Not at the time, but…later I did. It wasn’t just one time. That I went to Nick.”

She takes another minute to let that sink in. “I see.” Then she looks back at me, and she looks almost as heartbroken as Luke. “Why, June?”

“Because I needed sanity,” I answer in a wheezing voice, about to break down again. I’m desperate for her to take my side. “I needed kindness. He cared about me. So much. I needed him, as much as he needed me.”

“You sure he didn’t just need to get laid?”

At this, I do break down, so much that Moira has to take me out back to the patio. She’s holding onto my arms as I sob, saying, “Calm down. Calm down, girl. It’s okay,” and I feel like we’ve turned a corner. Now she sees what my relationship with Nick really means.

“It wasn’t like that,” I choke out. “He loves me. I love him. I’m not the woman I was before I was a Handmaid. Luke isn’t the same, either. It’s just not going to work. Did he tell you he was seeing someone here himself?”

Moira shakes her head. She had no idea. She finally gets me calmed down, and by then, the mood is totally shot. We call a cab and tell the driver my address. Emily is watching the girls. Moira offers to stay for a bit, but I tell her no, I just want to go to bed. She reluctantly leaves with a promise to text me later, looking worried. Emily tells me about the night and gathers her things. I get out my phone to PayPal her. It’s awkward with the elephant in the room.

“Luke and I are separating,” I finally say into the silence.

“That sucks,” Emily replies. “A lot of couples have had trouble getting back together after Gilead.” But Emily isn’t stupid, not even a little bit. “And with Holly…”

I wipe tears away with my fingertips. “Yeah, we…fell in love.”

Emily nods, nonjudgmental. “Luke understand?”

“He did.”

“You happy?”

“Not right now, no.”

“But do you think it’s what you want?”

“Yes,” I say. “I really do.”

“Then you have to go for it.” Emily checks her purse for her keys. “City College is going to have me cover a sabbatical next spring term. I’m really excited. And I heard a bunch of Marthas may be crossing the border in the next few days. Maybe yours will be in the group.” She looks up at me and smiles kindly. “Some good news, at least.”

“Thanks, Emily.” I hug her, and she returns it, rubbing my back.

“Take heart, June,” she says. “You’re doing all right. We’re free, and we don’t have to do anything we don’t want to do.” When she separates from me, her big blue eyes are serious. “Take care of yourself, okay? Just love every moment you have.”

“Do you have any trouble with Sylvia?”

“Beside the fact that she doesn’t clean as much as I’d like and insists we get Oliver a dog? Yeah, we do. We still have problems. Like any couple, and then that’s compounded by us being separated and everything I went through.” She makes a face, gritting her teeth for show. “Kinda hard to come to terms with your wife being a murderer. Not exactly dinner table conversation.”

“Different times,” I say. She nods soberly.

“Different times.” Then she hikes her purse strap up on her shoulder. “Goodnight, June. Be kind to yourself.”

I nod, telling her I will, and let her out. Luke has been taking later shifts so as to minimize the amount of time we spend around each other, and he won’t be back for another hour. The refugee center has promised to find us an apartment soon. Holly, Hannah, and I will move out, and Luke will get his apartment back. I hate the thought of putting the girls through even more change, but I can’t stomach the idea of raising them in the place Luke was living for the past three and a half years. The place where we tried to make it work and failed.

I shower and dress in comfortable pajamas, then pour myself a stiff drink. I’m buzzed in half an hour and sleepy in an hour, so I flip the TV off, put the glass in the sink, and wander back to bed.

No more thinking for tonight.


Everyone is moved around and settled in a few days later. Luke gives us the girls’ furniture, because he’s a decent person even if he’s made a shit-ton of mistakes. I still haven’t heard from Nick, and he hasn’t heard from me. In order for us to exchange numbers, we have to go through the refugee center and get approval from the other person.

Neither of us has reached out.

It’s another couple of days, a good week after I last saw him, before I contact the center. I’m at the P-n-P, and I wait anxiously for the response.

“Do you want to get a cap on break? My treat,” Ashley says.

“No, I’m good,” I say distractedly. I realize belatedly that it’s a nice gesture and I’m being rude. “Actually, that sounds really good. When are you due?”

“’Bout now. Ready?” We get approval for our break from Rob, current manager on duty, and go get cappuccinos. Ashley buys, just like she said, even though I try to tell her not to. We sit, and I don’t say anything. I’m aware that I’m terrible company.

“How are the girls?” she asks.

“They’re good,” I say. “We, um…we moved, the three of us, so…it’s been hard.”

She nods, the way a therapist might. Ashley is a natural. “It happens to a lot of families around here.”

“So I’ve heard.”

“I’m sorry.”

I shrug. “It’s not a big deal. I sort of knew it was going to happen. Deep down…”

I feel glum. It is kind of a big deal.

“How are the girls handling it?” Ashley asks.

“They seem okay,” I reply. “We’re just a few streets over, so it’s all still familiar for them. And Luke’s been great, really willing to work together on custody and – ” My phone vibrates, and I immediately cut myself off. I whip it out to check the message, heart sprinting.

It’s the refugee center. They’ve given me Nick’s phone number.

I tell Ashley who it is. “I’ve been trying to get hold of someone. I’ll be right back.” I get up from the table, dialing the number as I walk away to a corner near the bathrooms to give myself some privacy.

Nick picks up on the second ring. “Hi, June.”

He already knows my number.

“Hi,” I say breathlessly. I feel like I’m calling a boy I like for the first time.

…I am calling a boy I like for the first time. I’ve never called Nick on the phone before.

I’ve never…called Nick…on the phone before.

What the fuck.

His voice is different, the way voices always are on the phone, and I hone in on it. The entire rest of the world around me disappears completely. I don’t really know what to say (should’ve thought of that before dialing), but I plow on headfirst. I guess I’ve always been that kind of girl.

“Sorry,” I say. “Days went by. Kinda lost track. Been crazy.” The standard Mom Excuse.

“No, it’s okay,” he replies. “I should’ve called sooner.”

“No, no, it’s okay,” I say back. “You know, things are weird, and…” I break off. He’s silent. It’s awkward. Ugh. “Anyway,” I try again, “can we meet? I need to, um, run some stuff past you. Or update you, rather.”

“Yeah, sure. I’ve got a contract job at the refugee center now. Temporary, but we’ll see.”

“Oh, great, great!” I say, all faux enthusiasm but I just want normalcy. “How do you like it?”

“I couldn’t really say no, but they could use the help. Good hours, decent pay."

“Great!” Time to go. “Okay, well, my break is almost up, so…maybe tomorrow?”

There’s the briefest of pauses on the line. “I’m free the rest of today. When do you get off work?”

This was my last break, and I’ve got a couple hours to go. “Six-thirty.”

“What time will Luke be home?”

Ice unfurls itself in my body, splintering out in all my veins. “Tomorrow is better for me,” I say. “I only work till noon tomorrow.”

“I could meet you at two. I work a half-day.”

“Sure. Do you want to meet in the park? Go for a walk?”

“Sounds nice.”

“Okay.”

We finalize plans and then hang up. I turn and go back to Ashley, who pretends like she hasn’t been watching the whole time.

“I hope someday that this gets easier,” I say as I stick my phone back in my pocket and pick up my cappuccino.

“It really will, June,” she says in her kind voice, laying her hand across my wrist. She’s so young, and yet there is a great kindness to her, a gentleness, and a maturity that bely her few years. “I have faith in you.”

If only I had some in myself.

Chapter Text

I’m anxious for the meeting with Nick the next day, and work crawls by. Ashley isn’t working today. I enjoy working with her and miss her when she’s not around. Today is difficult, and my anxiety is getting to me bad enough that Rob asks if I need a longer break. I tell him no, and I get a grip on myself. I’m making way more out of this than I should be. Talking to Luke was the hard part, after all. Now, all I have to fear is, what? Nick rejecting me? And being completely alone?

…right. That would actually be really horrible.

It’s finally time for me to clock out, and I waste time until the meeting by browsing the clearance titles and getting a few books, then treating myself to lunch out. Afterward, I get a mani/pedi and duck-walk out to my car in the thin, disposable flip-flops they’d given me. I was not planning on the pedicure and thus did not pack pedicure shoes. Once in my car, I touch up my makeup a bit – I’m not wearing much, just some mascara and lip gloss – and carefully put my socks and sneakers back on. I don’t smudge my pedicure.

It’s stupid that I’m looking in the mirror and fluffing my hair, but I totally am. I drive to the park and get out of the car, making my way to our meeting point at a small pond. I sit down on a bench and watch the life all around me. Ducks quack noisily, and I laugh as one goes batshit on another. I wish I’d brought food to feed them.

It’s only another couple minutes before I hear footsteps, and I look up to see Nick approaching. I smile, and he sits down beside me. Today he’s wearing a navy blue t-shirt and jeans, and he’s freshly showered.

He smells fucking incredible.

“I couldn’t decide on pink or orange,” I blurt, flinging my hands out in front of me. Nick looks down, perplexed. Then he sees the bubblegum pink on my nails. “Or gel or regular. I went with gel. Lasts longer, but is more expensive. What do you think?”

Fuck my life, I’m babbling. God, shut up, June.

But Nick, fucker that he is, takes my right hand softly in his and studies it. “I think it looks very nice.”

A shiver runs over me, and I feel myself blush. What am I, thirteen? I need to get a grip.

We look out over the pond at the ducks, neither speaking. He will wait for me to get to my words. It takes me a bit while I wrestle with them.

“Luke and I are divorcing,” I finally say, squinting against the sun.

“I’m sorry,” he replies. Is he really? Yeah, probably.

“It was bound to happen,” I say. “Things changed too much.” Nick doesn’t say anything. “Anyway,” I continue, “the girls and I moved out to a new place, so we’ve been doing that for a few days now.” Howsabout that thing you were talking about, about all of us being together? “It’s as good a time as ever for you to get to know Holly.”

“How are you and Luke working out visitation?” he asks.

“Not entirely sure yet, but Luke is being really supportive. I think we’re going to do joint custody.” I pause. “He wants me to be happy. He took the news rather well.”

“How did he find out, anyway?”

“Hannah,” I sigh. “She spilled.”

Nick surprises me with a smile. “God’s will, I suppose.”

I snort. “Right.”

“But Luke was okay?”

“I mean, as okay as he could be,” I reply as I settle back against the bench, arms stretched out over the back of it. Nick’s neck is tantalizingly close, and I want to run my fingers through his hair. “Turns out he was seeing someone here while I was gone, so…” I shrug. “Win for all.”

“Except Hannah.”

“No. The children are always the ones who lose the most.”

We both turn to look at each other at the same time.

“Holly doesn’t have to,” I say. “She can have two parents, grow up normal. Free. Happy.”

Am I asking him to be my boyfriend? To marry me? Move in? I don’t even know what I’m asking, and from the carefully neutral look on Nick’s face, he’s not quite sure, either. He’s thinking really hard, although about what, I myself am not sure.

I decide to give him an out.

“You don’t have to tell me now,” I say, and a part of me wonders why this is so damn difficult. All of it. Luke is out of the picture, so why aren’t we in bed already? Weren’t we just on my (well, Luke’s, if we’re splitting hairs) couch a week ago groping and dry-humping, making out like horny teenagers and saying dirty things?

Argh.

My fingers are draped almost to his opposite shoulder, and I let my hand drop further so they brush his shirt. He twitches, and I watch in amusement as he fails to suppress it.

“I do want that,” he murmurs.

“I thought you could come over in the evenings,” I say. “Or after day camp? We could pick up Hannah together? Or both of them if they’re at the daycare? I don’t know. What do you usually do in the evenings?”

“Nothing.”

All right.

“Well, this will be better than you sitting around and sulking.”

“I read.”

“And sulk. And brood.”

“Some,” he allows, and I sense a smile.

“So come over tonight, and we’ll see how it goes. You can leave whenever you want.”

“Okay.”

I tell him my new address, and we stand to go. He pulls me close for a hug, then gives me a kiss on top of my head. I’m really looking forward to tonight.

Because finally. Finally, we’re going to be a real family.


Moira is video chatting me when I need to get ready for Nick’s arrival. He’s seen me at my worst and loved me anyway, so I know I don’t really, actually need to do anything, but I can’t help but want to put makeup and cuter clothes on. Dinner is almost done, and Hannah is playing with Holly on the floor of the living room.

“Moira, really, I have to go,” I say as I hustle back to the master bedroom. He’s going to be here in ten minutes, and I’ve put off getting ready as long as possible. I’d forgotten how much Moira can talk.

“Why, hot date?” she jokes. “No but seriously, it’s too soon to date, June.”

I frown at the screen as I set her down on my dresser.

“Ah, right,” she says soberly. “Daddy Eyebrows.”

“Yup,” I say definitively, pulling my T-shirt off over my head and going into the closet to find something cuter to wear. I select a fluttery white top with eyelet edging and a great view of my breasts. “Too much?”

“Rein it in, sister,” Moira says. “Looks like something my girlfriend would wear.”

“She made it official, then?” I bend over to go through my skirts and find a swishy emerald green one with a fun pattern that stops above my knees. I think he’ll like it.

“She did indeed. Just yesterday. Facebook official.”

“Oh, Facebook official. Well then.” I adjust my vanity mirror and start refreshing my makeup again.

“Oh, Jesus, June, makeup too?” Moira makes a disgusted face. “Ugh, you got it bad. My girlfriend – ”

“Who you mention every five minutes?” I cut her off. “Need I remind you that this is the father of my child who kept me sane for two years and got me and my children, one of whom wasn’t even his, out of hell?” I say as I apply another coat of mascara.

“Frequently.”

I grumble and reapply blush before flicking through my lip products for the right color. I settle on a sheer, light pink.

“Gross,” Moira says. “Go get your man.”

“We’re not sleeping together, you know.”

Moira overdoes it with the snort and says, “Yet. What panties you wearing?”

“None,” I say cheekily, but she raises her eyebrows. “It’s a thong,” I admit.

“So, hoping, or – ”

No, just enhancing my confidence.” I hear a knock at the door. “That’s him. Gotta go.”

“Love you, June. You wacky bitch,” she adds, and disconnects.

I smile and run my fingers through my hair, apply a bit of knockoff Canadian Victoria’s Secret Very Sexy perfume, and leave the room. (Maybe I am trying a bit too hard.) When I open the door, I see that Nick has changed clothes into a short-sleeved button-up. He smells faintly of smoke – he must be nervous. We’re going to have to work on that habit, especially if he’s going to be around the girls. Also, he tastes way better without the smoke.

For a moment, Nick just stands on the threshold, taking me in. It’s like he’s never seen me before, or seen a woman in general, ever. I wonder what our lives would have been like had we met outside Gilead. Would we have even liked each other? Talked? What’s his background, anyway? I don’t think he finished college, but he wanted to. Something about his brother Joshua.

“You look great,” he finally manages. He leans in for a kiss on my cheek, and I smile.

“Come in,” I say. “Dinner’s done. Hannah, help me with the table.”

She grouses but does it, while Nick immediately goes over to Holly. Holly is engrossed in her O-ball and is trying to shove as much shit into it as possible. When she sees Nick, she grabs his finger and immediately starts to bring it to her mouth. Luckily he’s a quick learner and already knows this trick. He deftly pulls away. When he rolls a car back and forth on the ground in front of her, she’s satisfied.

I call everyone over for dinner, and we all sit. I’ve made a pot roast, and the potatoes are done just right. I smile as I start to scoop some onto a plate for Nick.

“Do you remember how Rita always overcooked potatoes?” I say.

“Let me,” he says, taking the spoon and serving platter from me.

Oh.

I move away to sit at the table, and he serves everyone. Can’t say Luke ever did that, at least not often enough for me to remember.

He’s an infant!

I’d said that to Moira once, when she’d accused me of having a “perfect marriage.” Sure, women like to joke about men being unable to load the dishwasher or being complete babies when they’re sick (Luke was the worst), but when I’d said that…I’d partially meant it. Luke could be really frustrating and infantile about things.

Does Nick know how to load a dishwasher?

“I do remember,” he says as he sits down next to Holly’s highchair. “These look perfect, though.”

I smile, looking at him across the table, genuinely pleased. “Thank you.”

He looks away from Holly and meets my gaze. His expression doesn’t change, but there’s something in his eyes. Fondness, I think.

I cut up Hannah’s meat, even though it’s tender enough that it’s falling apart. The roast is perfect. Nick takes his cue from me and starts dicing up Holly’s carrots and potatoes. No meat for this princess. Rice cereal instead, I suppose.

“We, uh, usually talk about our days at the dinner table,” I say to Nick. “Hannah, how was your day?”

“Good,”  Hannah replies with her mouth full.

“Honey, manners.”

She swallows the wad of food in her mouth. “We have to write a story about our lives.”

“Oh, that should be fun.” That does not sound like fun. But the day camp is used to refugee children and has special training, so surely there is a reason. Therapy, perhaps.

Hannah looks down at her plate and pokes a potato with her fork. “I don’t know what to write about,” she mumbles.

“How about that time we went to the aquarium?” I suggest. “You loved the dolphins and stingrays.”

“I don’t want to write about Gilead.”

Hurt and hate explode in my body, and I can’t taste my food anymore. “Oh, honey…you don’t have to. Write about something that makes you happy. Tell that story. Or talk about finding your family again.”

She scrapes her fork across the dish, eliciting an ear-splitting shriek. It’s intentional. “But we’re not a family anymore. Daddy isn’t here.”

I look up at Nick. He’s studying Hannah. Holly blows a raspberry and slaps her hand down onto her tray, mashing a carrot into oblivion.

“Yes, we are, Banana,” I say. “Families come in all shapes and sizes and types. Daddy lives only a few minutes away. We’ll see him all the time.”

“Why are you here, though?” she asks Nick directly. I gently put my hand on Hannah’s arm and lean close.

“We talked about this, honey, remember? Nick is Holly’s daddy.”

“But why does Holly get a daddy and I don’t?” Tears spill out of her eyes now, and my heart hurts for her. I feel like a terrible person. I have no clue how to answer her. She cries quietly in the deafening silence.

“Hannah,” I finally say. “These aren’t things you’re going to understand right now. Someday, maybe, you will, if you still want to know. But for now, what I can tell you is this: Daddy and I both love you very, very much, and we wanted nothing more than to see you again.” My voice breaks, and my own tears spill out of my eyes and down my cheeks. This evening went south fast, and I wish Nick hadn’t been here to see it implode. He reaches over the table and takes my free hand. I squeeze his tight. “Nick wanted that for you, too. He made sure he got you and me out of Gilead and here to safety in Canada. He cares a lot about you, too.”

“And you?” she asks. Hannah has always been protective of me. We’ve always been close. Still, it’s a disturbingly astute question, and I swear Nick’s hand twitches in mine. I smile at Hannah again.

“Finish your dinner, honey.”

The rest of the meal is quiet, only baby Holly burbling to herself.

Chapter Text

Nick helps me get Holly to bed after her bath, rocking her to sleep while I read Hannah a story in her bed. She’s cuddled up into me under the covers, quieter, snugglier, than usual. I don’t blame her. I know Nick’s presence is a wrench in her already difficult life, but I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do. Erica, her counselor, gave me the usual “It’ll take time,” but I’m anxious for everything to just be perfect right now. I know it’s unfair, but Nick and I have wanted this for so long. We deserve it. Which is selfish, really, but… I just want us all to be happy.

“’Night, Mommy,” Hannah says after I’ve tucked her in. She reaches her arms out for a final hug. “I love you.”

“Goodnight, sweet girl,” I say. I hug tight and kiss her cheek. I will never, ever get tired of hugging her. I love Nick, passionately and fully and with every fiber of my being, but no one gives better hugs than Hannah. 

“’Night, Holly.” She says this every night, and it’s so sweet. She loves babies and has already grown attached to Holly. Who is already in dreamland in Nick’s arms. He’s still rocking her, staring down at her, his brows knit together like they were that first time he held her.

“Nick,” I say quietly. He looks up, as if he doesn’t want to let go (I don’t blame him). But he does, he gets up and sets her in her crib, and crosses the room.

“’Night, Nick,” Hannah says, and he pauses mid-stride. Turns back to her.

“Goodnight, Hannah,” he says carefully. “I’ll see you tomorrow. If that’s okay.”

I watch her eyes in the darkness. See her thinking.

“I guess so,” she says. “Will you bring me a cat?”

“Hannah, don’t start,” I chide, but I’m smiling as I shut the door behind Nick, because if she’s already trying to work the cat angle with him, then she’s started to accept him.

My heart is full to bursting.

 

It’s only 7:45, and I find myself, once again, with Nick Blaine in my apartment and nothing to do with him.

Well. Nothing he’s consented to yet, that is.

“Want to watch TV?” I offer lamely, because what else can I do?

“No, I should go,” he replies. He’s already moving toward the door before I can catch up to him.

“Wait, you don’t have to go just because the girls are in bed,” I say. “Stay a bit. I haven’t heard about your new job yet.”

“There’s not much to tell.”

“Nick.”

He looks down, caught. He knows I know he’s avoiding me.

“Is this how it’s going to be?” I ask. “This awkward…whatever this is? Where you come over to see your daughter and then leave as soon as she’s asleep?” I shake my head, willing myself to not cry again. My mood from earlier is gone. I hadn’t expected this. “How many times am I going to have to watch you walk away from me?”

“Is this what you want?” he asks, still not looking at me. He’s stone still, his voice quiet.

“‘This’ what?”

“Me,” he clarifies, “in your life like this.”

“Like we fucking talked about?” My fists and jaw clench. What the hell is wrong with him?

“Look at the problems it caused.”

I’m starting to shake. My heart can’t take much more of this. “You told me…you told me you thought about the three of us together all the time. Why are you pushing me away so hard? Do you not want it? Everything we talked about and wished and prayed for?”

“No, no.” He shakes his head. “Of course not. Of course I want it.” He takes a breath, swallows. “You didn’t answer Hannah. At the table.”

“About what?”

Finally his head comes up, and he stares levelly at me. “If I cared about you.”

“What was I supposed to say?”

“Do you think I don’t?”

I press my lips together and answer honestly. “I don’t know what to think anymore, Nick.”

Nick looks down again and lets out another deep breath. “June…fuck. I… I’m not good at this. I didn’t expect…I didn’t think… You always wanted to be back with him. That was always the plan.”

“That wasn’t always the plan,” I say breathily, nails digging into my palms. “We talked about our future. I told you I loved you. Did you think I was just making that all up?”

“No.”

My voice rises as the tears fall. “Then what the fuck is wrong with you?”

Nick sees the tears and steps forward, wrapping me up in a hug. “Don’t cry, don’t cry,” he soothes. “There’s nothing wrong. I’m sorry.”

I move my arms up to his neck and hold tight, pressing my head into his chest. He rubs his hands up and down my back, and I inhale deeply, taking him in.

“I do want to be with you, June,” he says. I look up. Tears that were still in my eyes run out, and Nick wipes them away with his thumbs. “Always. I always have.”

I stretch up and kiss him, and his mouth welcomes mine. Our hands cradle each other’s faces, and it feels like finally, we’re on the same page again. We kiss deeply, soulfully, and I’m lost in it. Then my fingers curl into his hair, and it trips him: he turns me and pushes me against the door, and he starts kissing me harder, his breaths rougher. His hands drop to the bottom of my shirt and slide up under it, roving over my bare skin. I arch into him as I grab onto his collar, kissing him hot and fast. I want him, I want him so bad. I drop my hands and reach for his belt, but he shifts away and presses his forehead to mine.

“I want to do this right,” he says, breathless, and I love how he sounds. “The right way. Take you out. Let me do that.”

“I don’t need an overpriced dinner at Red Lobster to be with you,” I reply. I kiss him again.

“I don’t like Red Lobster,” he says before kissing down my neck.

“Neither do I.”

Nick makes his way back to my mouth. “So can I take you out?”

“On a date?”

“Yes. A date. A real date.”

“Let me think about it.”

He kisses me, and I feel him smile.

“I don’t put out on the first date, you know,” I add. I’m not going to make this easy for him.

“Neither do I,” he whispers back, and damn him for beating me at my own game. I will not stand for this.

“Scared?” I bait. “Too little experience, maybe. Don’t know your way around a woman’s body.”

He doesn’t indulge me. “Too much respect.” He takes my jaw in his hands, fingers trailing on my neck, and God, I love it when he does this. He kisses me the way he always does, moving with me, like the time outside my room when the Mexican ambassador was here, like the time in the hospital when Waterford nearly died and sadly didn’t. I feel him against me, aroused, wanting me, but he doesn’t push it any further. Finally, after a while, our kisses slow. I breathe out and run my hands over his shoulders.

“Stay,” I whisper. Nick hesitates, mouth still hovering near mine, and I move my hands to his hips and pull them close to mine. “Stay,” I repeat, breathy, making my voice low and tempting. I dip my fingers into the waistband of his pants and slide them slowly back and forth, while leaning up to kiss below his ear. “Got other plans or something?”

“No.” His voice is rough. I’m wearing him down.

“Well, I am very lonely here, all by myself. And…to be honest, I think I know what you’re going to do when you go home and you’re all by yourself, too.” I move one hand to the front of his pants and run two fingers down his placket. He’s hard and straining beneath the thick fabric, and I feel my desire kick up a few notches. My clothes feel too hot, and I want his hands on my skin, under my skirt. I want him to see the underwear I wore just for him.

Nick’s short groan, deep in his throat, when I touch him, is rewarding.

“Tell me more about this date we’re going to go on,” I say, dragging my fingers back up. His breaths are still short and ragged.

“I’ll pick you up,” he says before he leans in to kiss my cheek. “Borrow a car from someone. Take you somewhere nice.” Kisses my other cheek. “Hold the door for you. Push your chair in. Tell you how beautiful you look. Ask you about your day and listen to everything you want to say.”

Shit, I’m getting turned on. Is this what a good date really sounds like? If so, I haven’t been on one in a looooong time.

“Then I’ll take you home, kiss you goodnight.”

“Always kiss on the first date?” I ask. My voice is rough, too. Nick kisses my forehead, my nose.

“Only if it’s a good one,” he answers.

“Mm. And what makes you so sure it’ll be good?”

He pauses, lips leaving my skin. Whispers, “I’m sure because I love you.”

“Nick,” I breathe, but he’s caught me up in another kiss again, wrapping his arms tight around my waist. It’s the first time he’s said it since Gilead, the first time I’ve heard it in three months, and elation sings through every part of me. I just want to stay like this and kiss him all night.

Nick stays for a few more hours, and we mostly keep our hands to ourselves. I curl up on the sofa next to him, my head on his shoulder, and he keeps his hand on my thigh most of the time. Sometimes he’ll cup the back of my head and kiss my hair. And remind me that he loves me.

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of hearing it.

Chapter Text

We set our date for Saturday, three days away. It feels like it takes an eternity for the day to get here.

I take the day off work and spend it primping and pampering myself (I fucking deserve it). And I don’t even give a shit if that makes me less than a feminist or whatever. I’ve scheduled a wax, and I’m due for a hair trim anyway. I meet Emily for lunch at a cute little crunchy café, and she judges me over a giant cappuccino after we’ve stuffed ourselves on really expensive sandwiches and soup.

“You straight people,” she says. “What the fuck.”

I roll my eyes and throw an oyster cracker at her. She lifts her elbow to block it.

“So he’s an Eye, but a good one,” she continues, perplexed. “What a crazy world. Of course, my favorite part is always that he said to be careful of me. I’m sooo dangerous. Me and all my bio knowledge.”

“Cells are sneaky,” I say seriously, and then glance at the dessert card in the middle of the table. I shouldn’t. I’m so full and I’m going to have a huge dinner tonight. My times aren’t back where I want them to be with my runs. For a moment I fidget with a sugar packet. “I wanted to say I really appreciate you watching the girls tonight. Moira, she…hasn’t really accepted things yet, and it’s been really hard on her.”

“It’s not her life,” Emily says. “Gilead was a nightmare. Worse than. It turned some of us into monsters.” She doesn’t have to say she’s talking about herself. She’s never told me everything that happened there, but I sense that she went through some serious shit. “We need to support one another. Find love wherever we can.”

I huff an ironic laugh. “I told a little girl that once. She wound up dead.”

This is not helping my initially cheerful mood.

Emily frowns and cocks her head. “Who?”

I do my best to shake it off. “This girl, she was married to Nick, found this other guy…” I reach the inevitable conclusion, realize I can’t wave it off like it’s no big deal. I look up at Emily and take a breath. “They drowned her.”

The haunted look is back on Emily’s face. It’s all I saw, when she came back from being gone that first time. When she was no longer Ofglen.

“How old?” she asks.

I feel tears again, and my throat constricts. “Fifteen. Her name was Eden. She was sweet, and kind, and devout, and…” I am not going to cry about this. Not again. I’ve already cried for her. We all have. Today is my day, and I am not going to let Gilead steal it from me. They have taken so much else. “I was carrying her husband’s baby. Right in front of her.”

Emily shakes her head and reaches out to put her hand on top of mine. “You couldn’t have known they would marry him off, and for all she knew, for all anyone knew, it was Waterford’s. They ‘issued’ women quickly sometimes.”

“It was all a power play,” I say. “Serena, Waterford…” I gulp and look at my lap, my fist clenching on the table. “Serena was horrible, Emily. Mocking me. She said at the Prayvaganza” – Emily snorts, which I appreciate – “‘He looks handsome, doesn't he?’”

“What a cunt.”

“She was so jealous. She couldn’t stand that we cared about each other. And she brought Eden into that…godawful cesspool just to control me and to control Nick. And it was like…like she really got off on knowing he was going to have to consummate the marriage, you know? Like she enjoyed the fact that he was going to have to fuck this fifteen-year-old high school kid against his will.” I bring my head up and swipe at my eyes. “Eden died because of the Waterfords. She didn’t deserve what she got.”

Emily pats my hand.

It’ll take time.

 

I’ve torn out every hair I can glamorously rip from my body, and I forgot how much it stings. My crotch is an angry bitch, and I try to promise it great rewards later, but it’s not buying it.

You guys said no sex on the first date, I remind myself.

Fuck off, my vagina says. I didn’t go full Brazilian, because that doesn’t seem like something Nick would be into (he sure as hell didn’t get it in Gilead). In light of Eden, too, it doesn’t seem right. I used to go bare for Luke, and he totally dug it. Another reason not to do it for Nick. I don’t want any reminders of Luke on my body.

Additionally I did legs, underarms, and hell, eyebrows, too (why not?), and I feel weird about it. Before, I waxed on the regular and had no problems with some random lady slathering wax and strips of tape all over my privates. But now, after everything I’ve gone through, it feels strange. Invasive.

I don’t think I’ll be doing it again.

Plus, Nick didn’t seem to mind anyway. It’s not like I had access to a good bikini tech or time to trim up at the Waterfords’, and besides, the horror if I had.

Ugh.

I do buy a new dress, something bright and cheery with very flowy fabric, and probably deserving of a new pair of shoes. This seems justified to me, especially when I find an aqua blue pair of heels on sale. (Height differences can be tricky.) The dress is white with flowers, and I love it. I hope Nick loves it, too.

You shouldn’t wear anything for me.

I smile in the checkout line, and the cashier doesn’t know what I’m thinking, but my smile makes her smile, too.

---

I take a lot of time to get ready, luxuriating in the idea of going on a date. Technically, for the first time with this man. I take a nice, long shower, I use lotion, I blow-dry and style my hair, I spray on my knockoff Very Sexy perfume. I spend extra time doing my makeup. It looks like too much, at first, but then I realize that this is the old June, the way I used to do makeup, the June I haven’t seen in a long, long time, and I love it so much.

I’m excited to get the girls from daycare, and Alice brightens when she sees me.

“You look beautiful, June!” she says, and she even gives me a hug. “I just…haven’t seen you this happy in a while.”

“Thanks,” I reply. “I feel happy.”

“Good,” she says with her ever-present smile. “Good.”

We go home, and I prepare the girls’ dinner. A little before 6:00, I get a text message from Emily:

I’m coming over early. I don’t trust you.

She arrives less than ten minutes later, and I cross my arms and give her an arched brow.

“And what is this?” I ask.

“Tell me you’re not going to be a basketcase, and I’ll go get coffee and work on my syllabus.” I roll my eyes, but turn away to go back into the bathroom to check my hair. “I know what you’re doing in there, June,” Emily calls. “You’d better have some good toys for tonight.”

“Not in front of the children!” I call back. When I come back out, Emily is by the coffeemaker, making an entire four-cup pot. Academics. Always the same, with the coffee.

“Sooo…eight o’clock?” she confirms, both eyebrows raised.

I nod. “Mmhm.”

“Eight o’clock.”

“Yes.”

“You don’t need extra time.”

“Nope.”

“None.”

“I told you, we agreed to take things slow.”

Emily makes a face and turns her head to give me side-eye. “Is this a straight-people thing or…?”

I rest my hip on the counter next to her. “No,” I say. “It’s a ‘let’s do it the right way’ thing.”

“In whose view?”

“His. Mine. I don’t know, he just wants to take me out and treat me well and ‘do it the right way,’ like we didn’t get to do in Gilead.”

Emily gets a mug down, pours a cup. “I guess.”

I study her. “Why, you don’t agree?”

She shrugs and moves past me to get into the refrigerator for the creamer. “You love each other, right?”

“Yes. Absolutely.”

“So what’s holding you back?”

I reach up to scratch behind my ear, thinking. “Nothing, I guess.”

Emily nods and turns away. “So I’ll see you at eleven or midnight. Remember your birth control pills. We all know you’re fertile as fuck.”

“Stop it,” I say, and elbow her with a smile. She smiles back over the rim of her mug.

Nick arrives right on time at 6:30. My heart pounds and I’m afraid I’m going to do something stupid and utterly embarrassing like twist my ankle in my heels (which aren’t even that high) when I go to open it. But I don’t. He’s dressed in a long-sleeved charcoal button-up and slacks, and I’ll be damned, he’s holding a bouquet of fresh flowers. It’s sweet and cheesy and I have a huge smile on my face. They’re not over the top like roses, nor are they the electric-colored garbage for $4.99 sitting in buckets of water at the grocery store. They’re a nice mix right in the middle.

I wonder if he had to Google it, or if he just knew. From experience.

Either way, I love them.

“Hi,” I say, staring at him.

“Hi,” he says back, and we must look like morons because Emily makes a gagging sound from behind us and says,

“Well, I’m going to go throw up. Are you done yet? You know you’re paying me to watch you moon all over each other.”

Nick blushes – oh my God, he actually blushes – and looks down. “These are for you,” he says, handing the flowers off to me.

“They’re lovely,” I reply, enjoying this so much. That’s exactly what you’re supposed to reply with. I remember from before. I turn to go back into the apartment, past Emily’s rolling eyes, and find something to put them in.

“Mama, flowers!” Hannah exclaims. She loves flowers and helps me arrange them in a large glass. When I look back over at Nick, he’s watching us, happy.

I break my gaze away. Force myself to. “Okay,” I say to Emily, “bathtime here soon, you can do a snack afterward, bottle is in the fridge, warm it up for – ”

“Yeah, yeah, I got it,” Emily says, holding her hands up as if she’s physically going to shove me out the door. “Get going, June.”

“Okay.” I reach out and squeeze her shoulder. “Thank you.” She smiles back, and I can tell she’s happy for me. For us. All of us.

Fuck Gilead.

 

Nick has chosen a steakhouse, which is generic and nice. I’m not one for fancy restaurants, really, especially for dinner. So expensive. (I do enjoy a nice organic café and coffeeshop, though.) He made reservations, and we’re seated immediately. We pick up our menus, and I can’t help but think that we haven’t said much to each other yet. This is the first time we’ve been together just the two of us in three months, and we can’t think of anything to say.

I settle on a moderately priced steak and set my menu down. He sets his on top of mine.

“So how’s work?” I ask.

“It’s good,” he says, unfolding his napkin onto his lap. “The refugee center has a lot of use for my information, so… That’s good.”

“My work’s good, too.”

This is awkward as fuck.

“Why don’t you tell me about yourself?” I say, which sounds terrible, but I figure, we’ve never gotten a chance to really talk, so maybe now would be a good time. “Like a real first date.”

Nick immediately looks uncomfortable and puts his guard up. “I’m not sure there’s much to tell.”

“Michigan, right?” He nods. “What part?”

“Grand Rapids,” he says.

“Hockey?”

“I hate hockey.”

“I hate hockey, too. Snow?”

“Undecided.”

“Where did you go to college?” I ask next, and this really feels more like an interrogation than a conversation.

“I started at the University of Michigan.” He pauses and looks away, studying something far away…or nothing, because I sense something there, something he doesn’t want to tell me. “I didn’t finish.”

I don’t know how to reply in a way that won’t sound trite. “I went to Boston College.”

Nick nods, his attention still elsewhere, and I wonder if he feels ashamed. He shouldn’t; he has no reason to be. I don’t know if I should encourage him or leave it alone.

I decide to encourage him. He’s smart; he should go back. Whatever the reason was that he left, my guess is it was probably outside of his control. “Maybe you could finish up here one day,” I say. “I’m sure there are programs and scholarships that help refugees.”

“Right.” He puts his hands on the table and does that thing where he takes the fingers in one hand in the thumb and index of the other. It’s one of his tells. (I love it, even if it means he’s nervous or uncomfortable.) His brows draw together. “I’m sure they’d love to give money to a former Eye.”

“A former member of Mayday, you mean,” I correct.

“A member of the Sons of Jacob, too,” he adds, eyes on his hands. “I joined for the money. Nothing else. My dad lost his job, my brother couldn’t hold down a job…”

“I imagine a lot of people did.” We’re interrupted by the arrival of the breadbasket, and our chipper waitress asks if we need anything. I order a glass of wine. She lingers too long and smiles too much and I wish she’d go away. “You’re a good person, you know.”

“So what about you?” he asks abruptly, shifting and putting his hands back in his lap. “Why book editing?”

So we talk about me for a bit until our dinners come, at which point conversation turns to Hannah and Holly. Occasionally he shares little bits of himself, but not much, and I realize: that’s all I’m going to get. He’s just very private, even with me, and I’m just going to have to accept that. When he pays for the meal, I get to see his signature for the first time, and I learn he signs “Nicholas.” It’s such a small thing, but it’s another little piece of him, and I cherish it.

It’s 7:30 when we leave the restaurant, me carrying a doggie bag, and for a moment, we stand outside in silence. I wonder how he thought the date went.

“Back home?” he asks, but I shake my head.

“I don’t have to be back just yet. What about a walk? Looks like there’s a little park over there.”

We put the box in the car and set off, the sun not yet dimming in the sky. It feels a little more comfortable between us now, and I enjoy looking around as we walk.

“This is nice,” I say, and I loop my arm through his. “Just being able to walk freely and look around at the world.”

Nick puts his hands in his pockets as we stroll. “I can’t imagine,” he says. At that, we lapse once more into silence, a comfortable one, as we make a circuit around the park. When we draw back up to the car, it’s five till. Nick lets out a breath. My arm is still through his.

“Well,” he says quietly, eyes on the car. “Thank you.”

“This was nice,” I assure him with a smile. “I know it’s not really us, though.”

He looks up at that. “Do you think anything ever will be? Or – ”

I cut him off with my lips against his, and he relaxes into the kiss. “Take me back to your apartment,” I whisper.

Chapter Text


Nick’s apartment is on the second floor like mine, and we make our way quickly to it. Thankfully we don’t see anyone on the way there, and Nick gets the door open right away even with me pressed right up against him, kissing his neck and every inch of skin I can reach like a horny teenager.

As soon as the door’s shut, it’s no holds barred. He shoves me back against the door and kisses me, hands cupping my jaw. I’m grabbing at his collar and pulling him as close as possible. I can’t get any closer and I want to be.

I have no patience. I’m done waiting.

My shoulders shrug, getting the little cardigan off as quickly as possible. As soon as it slips to the ground, I reach down and pull my heels off. Nick is right behind me, getting rid of his own footwear. Before he’s even finished my fingers are at the buttons on his shirt, unthreading them as fast as possible.

“I thought you said you don’t put out on the first date,” he breathes.

“I lied,” I reply, and yank his shirt down his toned arms. His undershirt is off next, me practically ripping if off over his head. He wraps his arms around me and crushes me back against the door, kissing me deeply.

My fingers sneak between us to find his belt, and before he even speaks again, I’ve got it unbuckled.

“Wait,” he says. “Let’s go back to the bed. Let’s – ”

“No.” Unbutton. Yank the zipper down.

“June. Slow down.”

I don’t. I push his pants and shorts down, then wrap my fingers around him. For all his talk, he’s already rock hard. And damn, does he feel good. His lips are at the crook of my neck, working the spot hard, and I tighten my grip on him enough that he groans. When he returns his lips to mine, his hands have found their way under my dress and are quickly stripping my underwear off.

Nick picks me up and in seconds pushes into me, and I cry out in pleasure at the feeling. My hand clutches the back of his head tight at his entrance. I’d forgotten just how good he felt, how different from Luke. I never felt fully satisfied with Luke, and his assets were nothing to brag about. But Nick is thick and perfect, filling me up exquisitely and touching me deep inside where I most need him. I squeeze tight on him as I moan with each of his thrusts, not caring what his neighbors hear. His breathing is loud in my ear, ragged, desperate.

“June…June,” he gasps, his fingers digging into my ass. “I need to get a condom.”

“No, fuck that,” I say as I slide my fingers into the hair at the back of his head and lean forward to kiss him again. “Condoms suck. I’m on the pill. Come in me. Fill me up. I love it when you do.”

He groans and his pace falters a bit. So he likes dirty talk.

“No, no,” he says. “You feel so good. I’m – ”

“How good?” I interrupt. Let’s hear what you have to say, if you want me saying dirty things myself.

His eyes squeeze shut, and he swallows. “Good,” he whispers. “Tight. Wet. Perfect. I’m not going to be able to last another minute. I’m going to come too fast.”

I put my legs down, and he takes a half-step away before I’m pulling him to the floor with me. I turn him so he’s on his back, and then I climb on top of him and sink all the way down, easy, slick. I can feel myself all over my thighs and his. Nick’s eyes close again, and I crawl my hands forward, my knees bracketing his hips.

I give a rough jerk of my hips, which makes him groan again. My hand brushes his sweaty hair back at his forehead. “I missed you,” I said. “I missed everything about you, including your cock deep inside me, making me come.”

“June, seriously.” Nick opens his dazed eyes and looks at me, his hands tightening on my waist. “I want to take care of you. Let me make love to you. You really are going to make me come too fast. It’s been a damn year!”

I press my lips hard to his, then whisper against them, “You talk too much when you’re getting fucked.” Leaning back again, I roll my hips against his, and he holds onto them, breathing hard.

But then I see his arms stiffen, see him swallow, see something change in his face, and I wonder –

Nick sits up and flips me over onto my back, driving hard into me. His fingers comb down through my hair as he kisses me, and his rhythm is perfect, so perfect. He goes up onto his elbows and one of his hands goes straight to my clit, fingers circling, and I’m pretty hyped up and it’s not going to take much to trip me. I want to come fast, too, because a.) I freaking need it and b.) he really is not going to last much longer judging by his face. His fingers are magic, though, and in no time at all he’s got me worked up pretty high and just as he always has, he can read my face perfectly. He leans over me again while I exchange his hand for mine, my fingers in a V on either side of his cock pressing down on myself, and the exquisitely sweet pressure continues to build. I tilt my hips up, and he curses quietly as he slides even deeper into me, and one, two, three thrusts later and I’m crying out, clutching him, squeezing tight. He fucks me impossibly harder and only a handful of seconds later, when I’m still coming, he spills into me, too, letting out the most delicious, beautiful groan unparalleled except by the ones in the Globe offices when I tried to leave and he fucked me against the pole. It was the first time we were allowed to be loud if we wanted to, the first time I could hear his pleasure, and it only made it worse for me, made me want him more, more, more.

Panting, Nick lowers himself down to me on shaky arms, head pillowed on my chest (he’s the biggest snugglebug and I love it). He’s gasping, totally wrecked, and I love that, too.

I wrap my arms around him, lay my check on top of his messy hair, and close my eyes in the quiet stillness.

---

We drag ourselves to Nick’s bed after cleaning up in the bathroom.

Well.

I drag myself to Nick’s bed. Nick is a fucking cliché and needs a damn cigarette. He goes outside in just his pants to smoke the thing, and I’m annoyed about it so when he comes back in, I’m wearing his shirt from the night, unbuttoned, legs spread, fingering myself on his bed.

“Fuuuck,” he groans. “Why?”

“Stop smoking,” I say, getting up on my knees and knee-walking over to him. I grab his wrist and pull him down. Nick sighs and closes his eyes, and we doze off. I’m very tired after all that. Tired, and crazy satisfied. Nick is still asleep beside me when I wake up and check the time on my phone. It’s past ten. I wish I could leave him in his oxytocin haze, but I have to get home by eleven. I darken my phone’s screen and turn back to him, pillowing my head on his shoulder. He stirs.

“What time is it?” he asks, voice roughened by sleep.

“Ten-ten,” I reply. “We’ve got a little more time.” I run my hand down his stomach and under the covers, just enough to tease him. I’m thinking too much and don’t know how to approach this next thing. Do I just go for the jugular and freak him out? “How do you…see this playing out?” I ask.

Nick shifts a little. “What?” His voice is still rough, and the arm he has around my shoulders tightens. I hate relationship talk. I’m not good at it. And after so many years of repressing myself in Gilead, the words don’t come easy. I can’t find them, and the ones I do find, don’t go together well.

“I assume this is what we both wanted,” I continue. “So why delay it?”

Like that makes a fuck’s worth of sense.

Nick, though, is ever patient. “I’m sorry, I’m not following.”

I lift up until I’m supporting myself on my elbow and looking him straight in the eye. Boy, he looks wiped out, and it makes me smile. “Move in with me. Let’s be a real family.”

His face remains expressionless, but his eyes stay on mine. I let him think it over for a moment. “Is that what you want?” he asks.

I smile wider and lean down to give him a soft kiss. “It’s what we both want.”

Nick runs his finger down my cheek, curving around my chin. “I’ll start packing tonight. Assuming I can convince you to leave my bed.”

“I don’t ever want to leave your bed,” I return, kissing him harder. He holds me tight to his chest, and my hand wanders down again. Already he’s hardening again, and he quickly pulls me onto his hips. I rub myself against him – I can’t help it – as I kiss his lips, and soon I’m sinking back down onto him. His intake of breath, the little hitch to it, when he enters me fully, is so sweet. I cradle his head between my hands, my shoulders hunched up as I keep him close to me, and move gently on him. I’ve missed him so much.

“I love you,” I breathe.

“I love you, too.” Nick threads his fingers into my hair and kisses me hard, and it lights my whole body up. I move harder on him and he groans into my mouth, an absolutely delicious sound. I sit back, pulling him up with me, and now there is no more going slow. Our movements are more frantic now, my hips rocking back and forth urgently against his.

And then I’m talking, and this has never happened before tonight because it was too unsafe in Gilead, and the first time we made love again tonight, I was too caught up with touching every part of him every way I could that there wasn’t much room for words.

But this time…this time, I want to talk.

He’s talking, too, in his own way, breaths a little louder, gasps more audible. I’m not used to hearing these sounds from him, and I want to hear more, more, more. I want to know what he likes, what turns him on, what his kinks are. If there’s a fantasy he has that he’s carried around for years in the back of his mind, if there’s something he’s always pictured me doing, if he has a go-to thought or image when he’s alone.

I want to know everything.

“Tell me what you like,” I whisper. “Tell me how I feel. Talk to me.”

Nick kisses the crook of my neck and doesn’t say anything for a moment. Then, “Good,” he says. “So, so good.”

“So do you,” I reply. My fingers tangle in his hair, and my body presses close to his. “I missed having you inside me.” It’s my turn to go for his neck now, sliding kisses along it. “Do you want me to tell you how much I like it?” He’s not a vocal person, but his arms, wound around my back, give a little twitch. I know I can get to him. Break him. I graze my teeth up his neck and down his ear, then breathe my words in: “Do you want me to tell you how good you are?”

Nick turns his head into me, kissing my jaw. “No, I just want – ”

But I don’t want to hear that. I push him back down onto the mattress, and his head hits the pillow. My hips move hard on his, and his eyes squeeze shut, the barest groan coming from his throat.

“Oh, you don’t want to hear?” I say, and it’s sultry and pouty and flirty all in one. My hands bracket his body, my hair hanging over my shoulders, and he stares up in awe at me. “You don’t want to hear how good you fuck me, Nick?”

I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t see it, but his cheeks color. He reaches up to my face, to brush my cheek or my hair, but I snap his hand away with my own and pin it on the bed. Then I lean down to his ear again.

“I want you to know you’re the best I’ve ever had. No one’s as good as you. I want you to think about it when you’re alone, and when you’re around other people. I want you to think about it and know I’ll never have any better, because no one could ever be for me.”

Nick’s hand goes limp in mine, and he looks up at the ceiling, blinking. His chest rises and falls with shallow breaths.

“I want to come,” I say. “Can I?”

He crushes hips lips to mine then, thrusting hard up into me before flipping us over. My eyes are closed and I’m in bliss, his lips all over my skin and my attention on my own pleasure as it ramps up. He’s getting me close, so close, as he always does, and it won’t be long now. I tilt my hips, changing the angle a bit, and he moves faster. He knows my body so well.

“I want you to come,” he says, the first dirty thing he’s ever said to me. He’s cupping my breasts and kissing them, breathless, but I still catch his words. “Come on me. All over me. I want to feel you.”

His words send the climax rushing up faster at me, and within seconds I hit my peak, clenching hard around him. I cry out and grip his shoulders. His pace is relentless, drawing my own ecstasy out as he closes in on his own. My waves recede and I kiss him, though we lose our rhythm as he gets closer.

And then I hear him: he groans much louder this time, and it’s a sound I’ve not heard before. We’re allowed to be loud this time, and it’s incredible. I kiss him through it, his forehead touching mine, only breaking away at the last moment to see his face pinched in sheer pleasure.

Finally, when it passes, he tucks his head into my shoulder and gently drops down onto my body.

---

We’re quiet on the drive back. Nick has his hand on mine on the center console as he drives, and I watch the city flicker by outside my window. I’m tired, and I don’t want the night to end, but I am happy. Nick parks outside my building and turns the car off, then turns to me.

“I’ll start packing in the morning,” he says. “I can get boxes from work.”

“The bookstore will have boxes, too,” I say. He nods.

“I don’t have much. I can be ready tomorrow night or the day after.” I must look stricken, because he amends, “Or whenever you’re ready.”

I lay my other hand over his and smile. “No,” I say quietly. “That’s perfect. I’m just happy this day is finally here.” I swallow. “Just like you said it would be.”

Then Nick smiles, and I swear it lights up the dark of the night.

 

Emily doesn’t even look remotely tired when we walk in the door. She’s sitting at the breakfast bar, staring at a piece of paper, pencil jittering madly between her fingers.

“‘Giant blank, deep-sea dweller,’ six letters,” she says.

“Isopod,” Nick says immediately, and I give him an incredulous, sort of disgusted look. The fuck does he know that?

“Thank you,” Emily replies as she fills in her crossword. “You kids have fun?” she asks without looking up.

“Yeah,” I say. “Thanks, Emily.”

“Sure.” She gets down off the tall chair and starts to gather her things up. “The girls were great. Holly was a little fussy like she always is when you’re gone, but Hannah calmed her down right away. They did awesome.”

I smile. “That’s great.”

Emily walks up to us, her hand on the strap of her purse. “It is great,” she says. “I’m glad, June.”

“I’ll walk you out,” Nick says to her.

“The hell for? Aren’t you staying here?”

This seems to stump him, and honestly, it stumps me, too. I’d assumed he’d be going back home. We hadn’t ever discussed him staying over.

“Besides,” Emily continues, “you two smell like sex, and I don’t want that funk all over me when I go home.” Nick and I both open our mouths to reply, but Emily raises her hand and points at Nick. “You especially, Daddy Eyebrows. I don’t want to smell like man-sex.”

He closes his mouth, blinks, then speaks. “What did you call me?”

“Later, June.”

With that, Emily leaves, and Nick looks at me. “What did she call me?”

“You do have nice eyebrows,” I say. I take my heels off and leave them by the door, making my way into the apartment.

He follows.

Chapter Text

“You have a hickey, June.”

It’s not the worst thing that’s been said to me at work.

I have to let all of you go. I’m sorry.

Roger, firing all of us.

No, letting you go.

Firing us. And us walking out with a literal firing squad watching over us.

“Shit, really?” I reply, hand flying up to my neck.

“Other side,” Ashley says. She sighs, puts her books down, and takes me by the wrist to drag me off to the breakroom. Once there, she spins the lock on her locker, then riffles inside her purse for something. She pulls out a tube of concealer and some powder and then marches me to the bathroom.

“Unbelievable,” she says, as if scolding me, a woman in her mid-thirties, for having a hickey. “I take it you got a new boyfriend?” She gasps really way too loudly. “Oh my God, is it that super hot guy?”

I push my neck out farther toward her. “Just cover it up.”

I have never received a hickey from Nick, for obvious reasons. I’m downplaying it completely to Ashley, when in reality, all I want to do is stare at it in the mirror and smile. I’m not into marking as a general rule, but there’s something hot about seeing your partner’s imprint on you, of feeling the ache in your muscles from your exertions.

Boy, do I ache.

My thighs are super sore.

Mmmm.

“So what’s the story there?” Ashley asks all conspiratorially. I shove at her.

“You’ll get the scoop at lunch when we talk about the book, okay?”

Ashley smirks. “I can’t wait to hear it.”

I sneer playfully. “Burke likes you in blue, doesn’t he?”

Her face flames as she looks down at her sky blue top.

“For the record?” I say. “‘You don’t look bad in blue’ is not a compliment. Make a man try harder. Where I come from…” I trail off unexpectedly and swallow the pain that’s risen up at those words. “Men don’t treat women right there. Demand more. You’re worth it. Make sure he treats you like a goddess.”

Ashley is so young. Just an incoming sophomore in college. But she eyes me here at these words, and she’s serious. “Is that how he treats you?” she asks.

“Yes,” I reply. My voice is breathy and my eyes suddenly burn. “It is. He does.”

Ashley gives me a tentative smile back and squeezes my shoulder. Then she presses the concealer into my hand. “For touch-ups, you hussy.”


Ashley has already decided she’s going to write a book about me. She’s going to call it My Name is June. She wants to do Moira and Emily next. We’ve had lunch planned for a couple weeks now for after our shift, and we get our food around 2:15. Ashley is completely prepared, full of questions, audio recorder on, everything. She’s even talking about making a documentary sometime if she finds the right people “down the road.” I’m excited for her.

We talk about how I became a Handmaid first, and it’s less difficult than I thought it would be. She corrects me when I place too much blame on myself, bolsters me with words of encouragement, and asks lots of insightful questions. It’s clear she’s done her research. There’s so much to cover, but she just wants to get a general picture.

It’s over an hour before she asks about Nick.

“Who were your allies in Gilead?” she asks.

I tell her about Emily. I don’t mention Alma or Rita because I don’t know if they’re safe yet and I can’t risk their safety. I want to tell her about Janine, but same story.

So I tell her about Nick. My wonderful, sweet Nick.

“Our driver,” I say. “He was a member of the Eyes and Mayday. He helped get me and my daughter out. We were close. We’re…” What do I say? There’s so much more here. “Well, he’s the one who gave me the hickey.”

Ashley snorts and makes a note. “Driver…gave…hickey.” She looks up with a smile, clearly enjoying this. “So how’d that get started?”

My face starts to fall, and I look away to fidget with my leftovers. “I wish it had a better beginning. I guess it couldn’t have, really. Serena wanted a baby, and she thought Waterford was probably sterile. So she had Nick do it. Then we just…continued after that.”

Ashley nods and jots something down, completely nonjudgmental. Then her pen stops, hovering above the paper. “We can stop there for today,” she says slowly, and I can tell she’s thinking something. “While we’re on the topic…I was wondering…”

Oh, God, is she going to ask me something I don’t want to answer about my relationship with Nick?

She looks up at me and twists the pen between her fingers. “I’ve never…had a serious boyfriend. Burke’s been texting me, and I think he wants to ask me out. I’m nervous. I’m…” She shrugs and looks away. “You know.”

“A virgin?” I guess. She nods, looking embarrassed. I wave it away and lean forward to grab my drink. “It’s okay.”

“I’m, like, the only person I know who is,” she says, still looking away from me. “I don’t know how to do anything, and I don’t really have anyone to talk to…”

“What are you talking about? You have a ton of friends.”

“I know, but… I don’t want them to make fun of me.”

I get it. I do. I had a friend who pretended she had more experience than she really had. When I found out later, I felt bad. I wished she hadn’t made it up. It was really no big deal, but I got that she wanted to talk about dicks with the rest of us.

“So,” I say, because apparently she needs a big sister, and I am totally cool with that, “what are your questions?”

Ashley turns back at me with a look of relief on her face. “I don’t know how to, uh…like…” She gestures vaguely. I raise an eyebrow.

“Suck a dick?” I suggest.

Ashley flushes bright red. “June!”

I grab my drink and suck on the straw, thinking. “What about handies? Ever given one?”

“Well, yeah, kinda, but…just for a minute and then his dad walked in…”

I wince. “Oh, man, that sucks.”

Ashley looks down and hugs herself. “I’ve been scared ever since. It was last summer. We dated for six months, but he dumped me.”

“Asshole.”

“Yeah.”

“I mean, I’m no expert,” I start, even though I totally am, “but there are a few rules to go by. First off, don’t just give it away. Make him earn that shit. Earn. It. He damn well better be returning the favor if he expects you to suck his cock.” Ashley is still bright red, but now she looks petrified. Should I keep going? I’m not sure she wants me to keep going. I keep going. “Second, if he slobbers on you, he sucks at giving oral. If he tries the alphabet, he sucks at giving oral. If he comments on how you maintain your lady-parts, he sucks in general. No dick-sucking for him then.” Ashley nods. “Don’t nibble. Use your hands. Don’t neglect the balls. Pay attention to the tip. Make eye contact if you can, because supposedly that’s sexy. I dunno, it makes me feel goofy. Don’t swallow if you don’t want to. Spit that shit out.” I cross my arms and shrug. “Enjoy it. It’s really not that bad. I like it. If it’s something your partner enjoys, it’s really enjoyable.”

Ashley twists her pen nonstop between her fingers. “And…sex? How did you even get past…everything you went through to still want to have sex? I mean, I’m scared as it is and I didn’t live in Gilead.”

“Well, being with Nick was a way of taking back my control of my own body,” I explain. “He just happens to be a really good man. You need to find someone who’s very giving. That’s important. Nick is an incredibly giving human being, across the board. That kind of personality translates into the bedroom.” I pop an uneaten grape into my mouth and give her a smile. “He likes being told what to do, too.” I wink, and she looks scandalized. Probably too much information. I grab a long, generic mustard bottle and move on. “Okay, handjobs.”

I’m very publicly demonstrating technique when someone clears their throat behind me. I look up to see Nick, of all people. Why isn’t he at work?

“Busy?” he asks, and glances conspicuously at the mustard bottle I am currently trying to get off. Ashley covers her eyes with her hands. I give Nick a sunny smile.

“Why, what a coincidence,” I say. “We were just talking about you.” I suggestively rub the mustard and lick my lips. “Why aren’t you at work?”

“I had a work appointment in the area,” he replies, looking rather too irritable for the situation. I think it’s hilarious. It’s not every day you’re jerking off a mustard bottle and your boyfriend walks up.

Boyfriend? I guess. Seems like a funny word to use for Nick. I’m not really sure what he is.

“I’ll let you two get back to your lunch,” he adds awkwardly, still side-eying the mustard.

“Jealous?” I mouth as seductively as possible. He just shakes his head and sighs out through his nose, long-suffering, like dealing with my rampant sexuality and horniness for him is such a burden.

I snort and turn back to Ashley, who peeks out from under her hands.

“Awk. Waaaard,” she says. I wave it off.

“Nah,” I say. “He’s going to be getting laid on the regular. He’ll be fine.”

Chapter Text

Nick is quiet on the drive home, and I can’t figure out why. Finally, I ask.

“Were you really giving a handjob to a mustard bottle?” he says. “In public?”

I snort. This is what had his panties in a bunch? “She had questions. I consider it my sacred duty to share the knowledge.”

“In public?!”

I glance over at him from the driver’s seat. “So scandalized.”

He just shakes his head like he can’t believe me, but there’s a hint of a smile on that pretty face. “You’re unbelievable.”

Am I? Am I really? All right. Let’s see unbelievable. I swerve to the side of the road – we just so happen to be on one that doesn’t have a lot of cars – and slam on the brakes.

“June!”

I shove the gear shift into park and flick the key to the off position. Then I turn to Nick, arm over the steering wheel.

“Face it,” I say: “there is nothing like a bad handjob.”

“There are worse things in the world,” he says, looking at me like I’ve lost my mind.

I nod very seriously. “Yes, Nick, there are.” He thinks I’m going to say Gilead. “Bad blowjobs.”

He raises his eyebrows.

“Surely you’ve had a bad blowjob.”

“In high school.”

I reach over to his pants, still maintaining eye contact. “Well. How lucky for you. That every girl after that was so good at sucking your dick.”

Nick rolls his eyes, and I notice with amusement that he does not push my hands away. He knows where this is going, and he is quite happy with how his complaint is being resolved.

“It’s not like I slept around,” he says.

“Oh, I know you didn’t,” I reply, getting his belt buckle undone and moving on to his zipper. “You’re aware that you could have, though, right? That gorgeous face. You must have had girls beating down your door.”

He reddens a little and turns slightly away from me. He hates compliments. “June.”

I unzip him and find his cock, already half-hard. I begin to stroke it gently. “So the thing is, you can’t just yank it for all it’s worth, as you know.”

“Yes, I know. I am familiar with it.”

“Tell me,” I say next, and it’s not quite an order, but I put force behind it, because I want to know. “Tell me about touching yourself, and what you think about. Or show me.”

Nick’s hand replaces mine immediately, and he closes his eyes and leans back against the headrest. A car zooms by, but we don’t even flinch.

“Feel good?” I ask.

“Yeah,” he murmurs, stroking slowly, so slowly.

“Good. Now tell me about when you’re alone.”

“I think about you. On top of me. Taking me in. Riding me. How good you feel. Wet, warm.”

A bead of precum forms at the tip, and I lean over and kiss it. He groans in surprise and makes a pained face.

“Good,” I say. “Tell me…what you think of when you really need to get off. When you’re really hard and need to relieve that pressure fast. What’s in your mind?”

Nick begins to pull rougher at himself, and I watch. It’s amazing, and I am so turned on right now. Wet and tingling, heart pounding, wanting him.

“Depends,” he says. “Sometimes I think about your mouth on me, sometimes I think about our first time… Sometimes I think about that time at the Globe offices. Fuck, you were good.”

“I was?” I say in this sweet little voice, leaning my head on my fist. “How good, Nick? How good was it? Did I make you come hard for me?”

Oh, I did. Lord, did I ever. That boy cried for me.

“Yes,” he answers. I gently nudge his hand away and put both of mine on him. He feels good between my palms. Leaning across the center console to him, I whisper in his ear.

“What do you want, Nick? What do you want me to do?”

My hands move up and down him, twisting, pulling, touching every part of his cock.

“Just this?” I ask, breathing my words in, low and tempting. I kiss his earlobe, then gently close my teeth on it. Whisper: “Or do you want me to give you a blowjob? Right here in this car, on the side of the road? Do you want me to wrap my mouth around you, go all the way down, take you all the way in? Deep-throat you? Hmm?”

Nick just groans and threads his fingers into my hair. He’s losing it.

“I can’t do anything unless you tell me,” I say. “Tell me. Tell me, Nick. Tell me what you want.” I apply more pressure to his cock. “Tell me now.”

“Please go down on me,” he blurts. “God, please, please, please.”

I immediately pull away and lower down so that he’s in my mouth in seconds. His whole body stiffens up with the change in sensation and he cries out briefly, one hand grabbing onto my shoulder. He moans my name brokenly, desperately.

He’s a mess.

His hand is way too rough in my hair, at the back of my head, but I don’t say anything because I know he doesn’t mean to be, and I don’t really mind when he’s rough with me anyway (the rare moments when he is). I like when I trigger that part of him, that dominant side.

Taking a break and stroking him again with just my hands, I whisper against his lips, “You taste good. I missed this so much.” I kiss him on the lips for just a quick moment, then go back to sucking his cock. It does feel good. His other hand clutches the side of the seat, and his hips move up into my mouth. I’m sucking hard, my hand moving none too gently, and I know he’s going to come really soon.

“I’m there,” he says. “I’m going to come.”

Once again, I lean close to his mouth. “Good,” I murmur. “Come in my mouth.”

“No, you don’t – ”

“I know you want to. Don’t pretend you don’t.”

Nick doesn’t reply, but I do see him swallow. He’s sweating, literally sweating, and his eyes are glazed over. I press my forehead to his.

“Tell me you do,” I say.

“I want to,” he whispers. “I want to come in your mouth.”

I return to what I was doing, harder and faster and thirty seconds later he explodes hot in the back of my mouth, groaning and clenching my hair tight and holding me onto him, hips pushing in and out. Afterward, he’s left gasping, and I give him a kiss, satisfied.

But then he looks over at me, panting, and I know I’m in big trouble.

Nick picks me up and hauls me into the backseat, climbing in after me. He quickly jerks my jeans and underwear down, ripping my shoes off, and spreads my legs wide. This time I cry out when his mouth goes on me. He’s already got my legs over his shoulders and wow, he was fast. He’s merciless, not trying to build me up slowly, using every trick he knows to get me off. His fingers move deep inside me, crooked up into my g-spot so that it’s almost painfully good, and I want his cock so bad it hurts. I regret the blowjob and getting him off because now we have to wait.

“Glove compartment,” I gasp. “Glove compartment.”

“What?” Nick doesn’t stop, fingering me furiously.

“Glove compartment.”

Now he does stop, and he turns and awkwardly twists his body to reach to the box. He flips it open and pulls out a black faux velvet drawstring pouch.

He doesn’t even say anything when he opens it up and looks inside, just pulls the slick little pink vibrator out and flicks it on. I’ll explain later why I had it in there and why I probably shouldn’t have given the temperature. Because he’s perfect; he tests the plastic against his palm to make sure it’s not too hot before he slides it into me. I moan, head thrown back, and he lowers his mouth to me again, tonguing at my clit. He focuses all his attention on that now that he’s got the vibrator to do the job of his fingers, and in no time at all I’ve hit my orgasm.

There may or may not be a ripping noise coming from his shirt when I do.

Chapter Text

Nick has brought a cat into this household.

He is in the doghouse.

To clarify, I’m not opposed to cats. What I am opposed to is blatant, transparent bribery, and I am not impressed. Combine this with the fact that Hannah has named this piece of shit “Princess Pussyfoot,” plus I am on my period and can’t bang my hot boyfriend who is now living with me for the first time ever and so accessible, and I am one pissy mom.

I stand in the kitchen in an old T-shirt and Nick’s workout shorts because I’m bloated and disgusting, fists on my hips and spatula in one hand, my hair uncombed and unwashed, eggs burning on the stove behind me. Pussy is prancing on the breakfast bar, too close to the plates we are about to eat off of.

Two weeks. We’ve been living together two weeks and he brought another pussy into this house.

“Was there not enough vagina in here for you?” I ask him testily. “Not enough estrogen?”

“She loves the cat,” Nick defends his pathetic self as Hannah scoops Pussy off the bar. The cat yowls, feet dangling, and goes limp. “What was I supposed to do?”

“Not try to buy her loyalty?” I glare. “Weren’t you a double spy? What kind of BS is this?”

He quirks an eyebrow at me and gives me a little smile. I glare harder.

“She asked me for the cat weeks ago,” he says. I arch a brow.

“Right, and…that’s the approach you’re going to take to parenting. ‘She asked for it, and so she got it.’” He shrugs. I point the spatula accusingly at him. “One week. One week on the couch. See how you like it then.”

“But you love animals!” he protests as he comes into the kitchen. Pussy yowls as Hannah drags its little tiger ass off to play with her dolls. With a hiss, she escapes, and comes back to Nick the traitor and twines around his legs in increasingly desperate figure-eights.

I stab the spatula at the cat. “I do not love that animal.”

Nick scoops Pussy up from the linoleum and puts her right up in my face. Her big, round eyes looks at me imploringly. “She needed a home, and Hannah needs a pet.”

Pussy growls deep in her throat, and I am reminded that she still has all four sets of claws.

I turn back to the eggs, silently conceding, because I was going to get her a cat anyway at some point. He just doesn’t need to know that. What he does need to know is he’s supposed to ask me first. Me. Matriarch. I run this shit.

“You have full responsibility for her,” I say, pushing the eggs around. “Scooping litter. Vet visits. Brushing. If her anal glands get impacted, you’re taking care of that, too.”

“Wait, what?”

“You heard me.”

“Anal glands?”

I turn and dump eggs onto a plate along with some sausage patties that had been sitting on a paper towel, de-greasing.

“It happens, Nick,” I say in as matter-of-fact a voice as I can manage, my eyes on the plate. “It’s rare, but it happens to cats sometimes.”

“How will I know…?”

“You’ll smell her.”

“Oh, that’s just…” He turns and leaves the kitchen, headed out to the living room toward Holly, who is determined to grab onto an electrical cord. Already he’s developed a sixth sense for her.

I heft the plate of eggs and sausage. “Eat up, family,” I say. Hannah comes bounding over and clambers onto the chair at the bar.

“Mmm,” she says. “This looks yummy, Mommy. We never get sausage.”

“Thank Nick,” I reply. “He’s the one who got them.”

She shoves a whole one in her mouth. “Fank you, Nick.”

Pussy lightly catapults onto the bar and sniffs at the remaining patties. I shoo her away.

Nick comes back with Holly and gets her into her high chair. I pass out food all around. Nick sits between the two girls, leaning over to Holly’s tray to dice up bits of food. I stare at the big window in the living room.

“We need curtains,” I say. “I mean, I guess not need, but… I would like? I’m not really good at interior decorating. Do you have a color preference?”

“Not really,” Nick says, while Hannah offers, “Purple!”

I’m still staring, thinking. “Yellow could be good. It’s bright and – ”

Nick’s fork drops to his plate with a clatter that makes me jump. I look over at him in shock, not sure what I’ve said that has caused this. “What – ”

But he’s wiping his mouth and pushing his chair back. “No,” he says. “No yellow curtains.”

“Wha…? They’re just curtains,” I reply, perplexed, as he heads back down the hallway to our bedroom.

No, June.”

Those are his last words before the door slams shut, leaving us all in stunned silence.

 

Since it’s Sunday and I don’t have to work (and Nick only works weekdays), our day is slow. Holly is down for her nap an hour later, and Hannah is watching TV, when I tiptoe back to the bedroom to find Nick. The door is still shut.

I gently rap my knuckles against it. This has never happened before. “Nick?” I call quietly. “Nick, it’s me.” What a stupid statement. Of course it’s me. “I’m going to come in.” He doesn’t say anything, so I follow through. Inside the room, he’s sitting on the side of our neatly made bed, hands between his knees, staring at nothing. I keep my distance at the door. “You want to tell me what that was all about?”

“Eden wanted yellow curtains,” he says.

Oh.

Shit.

I sigh and come over to him, sitting down next to him.

“She said they were ‘cheery,’” he adds, his gaze going toward the ground. “I was an asshole to her. The whole time.”

“She thought you were gay.”

It’s a poor attempt to lighten a horrible situation. Eden wasn’t at fault for anything. The girl – for she was indeed just a girl – did nothing wrong. And she paid for it.

“She was a kid,” Nick says quietly. “A kid. She could’ve babysat Hannah and Holly in another life.”

“Yeah,” I say. “She was good with babies. I saw her with Holly once. It was…disconcerting, given the circumstances.”

Nick looks up at the ceiling now, blinking quickly. I look away and find something else to concentrate on. “She would’ve made any other nutjob in Gilead happy. But she had to get stuck with me.”

“You tried to save her.”

“I pushed her away in the first place.”

“You didn’t want her in the first place.”

Nick quickly looks over at me, and I meet his eyes. His hackles are raised like I’ve never seen before. “She was my responsibility. I was supposed to look out for her.”

He’s being ridiculous. “I’m the one who told her to grab love wherever she could find it,” I tell him. “Look where that got her.”

“Maybe she wouldn’t have gone to Isaac if I’d been nicer. If I’d…” He trails off. Looks away again.

“If you’d what?” I push. “Made her think you loved her? Kissed her?” I swallow, starting to feel anger of my own. “Had sex with her again? Gotten her pregnant?”

Nick pulls his hands down his face and shakes his head. “Serena was behind it, I know. It was punishment for me worrying about you. She couldn’t stand… She couldn’t bear the thought of us…”

I take his hand and hold it while he works through his feelings. There is no easy way to deal with this.

“Nick,” I say quietly, after a moment. “Eden is innocent, yes. But so are you. You’re a victim, too. The refugee center has counselors – ”

“I don’t need a counselor, June.” He lets go of my hand.

“Okay.” I stand from the bed; I’m not going to push it. I see my counselor every Tuesday and would be lost without her. But men have their own way of coping with things. Maybe he’ll come around one day. “For what it’s worth, I still feel guilt about things, too. I burned those letters. From those women? I burned them. Burned their hope right to the ground. How’s that for awful?”

“You weren’t in a good state of mind,” Nick says, but he’s tired, not up for supporting me. It’s okay; I don’t need it right now. I just want to be there for him.

I let myself out and leave him sitting on the bed with his thoughts.


Sunday also means grocery store, which could go either way. This time, it’s not going to go the good way. Hannah is not happy the carts with the gigantic ride-in plastic cars on the front are all gone and stamps her foot about it, and Holly immediately needs a diaper change. Nick takes my frilly diaper bag from my shoulder and pulls Holly out of the cart to haul her off to the men’s room while I wrangle Hannah. After all that is squared away, we’re off, Hannah complaining about how she doesn’t like the healthy homemade fruit snacks and wants the Frozen store-bought ones instead and do I know they’re coming out with a sequel? (Yes, I fucking know.) Nick wonders if I could make meatballs, but I don’t pay much attention to him because I’m digging around for Kix in the cereal aisle after there has apparently been a raid on them and I can’t find a box anywhere.

That’s when I hear the voice I don’t want to hear.

Yes, we really need three tikka masala simmer sauces.”

I look up, greedy fingers on the last, beat-up box of generic Kix, and there’s Luke in the cereal aisle with us. Holding a basket – and hands – with another woman. Tall as him, white, blonde.

This must be the new(ish) chick. The new me.

Holly takes this moment to let out an incredibly loud baby fart, and I have to agree. Hannah squeals, shouts, “Daddy!” and kicks in the car, arms outstretched. I’m stunned in place and make this sort of jerky move toward the cart so that my heavy purse falls down my arm and I’m trapped. Nick steps in and dislodges Hannah from the seat and sets her down on the linoleum. She takes off running and throws her arm around Luke.

“Hey, kiddo!” he says, handing his basket off to New Me. Replacement Me. Luke looks like an idiot, wearing his beanie in the middle of freaking summer and needing to trim up his beard. Not that I look any better, needing a shower and an attitude adjustment. Nick’s the only one who bothered to do anything with himself, and I catch you darting your eyes at him there, New Me. Nick appears to be clueless – he probably is – fingertips in his jeans pockets and eyes on Hannah and Luke. Holly has grabbed onto the back of his shirt and is gumming, but he doesn’t seem to notice. I eye Luke’s basket and suppress a snort. Magnum condoms, a giant tub of generic ice cream, Men’s Health magazine, Cosmopolitan for her (“10 New Sex Moves Guaranteed to Send You to O-Town!” Good luck with that, honey.), the jars of tikka masala sauce, and a six-pack of Bud Light under his arm.

“We’re going to have Mommy’s meatballs tonight,” Hannah says to Luke with a giant smile.

“Are you?” Luke says as he ruffles her hair. “Since when does Mommy make meatballs? I thought you were weirded out by balls of meat, June.”

“I didn’t actually agree to the balls of meat,” I say, bending over the cart to start organizing because I am more bothered by New Me than I should be.

“I’m sorry, what’s weird about meatballs…?” New Me asks.

“It’s just the naming,” I say. “Meatballs. Meatloaf. Balls of meat. A loaf of meat.”

Luke suddenly recalls himself. “I’m sorry. Sandy, this is June, June, Sandy.”

Sandy. At least three songs from Grease zip through my head, grease-lightning fast. “Pleasure,” I reply, and you’d have to be an idiot to think it was.

“Your daughters are adorable,” Sandy says. She’s nice enough, but I feel about her the same way Luke feels about Nick, I suppose.

“Thank you. Nick, she’s drooling on you.”

Nick looks down and takes his hand away from the cart, then pulls a wipe from my diaper bag and cleans his skin off.

“Want to come over for meatballs tonight?” Hannah asks Luke, and, ugh.

“Thanks, baby, but I can’t,” Luke says gracefully enough. Hannah is crestfallen.

“Oh,” she mutters.

“Well,” I interject too loudly, “it was nice meeting you, Sandy. See you tomorrow, Luke.” He’s taking Hannah to the zoo all day. She’s excited.

“Bye, Daddy!” Hannah gives him one last, big hug. Luke eyes Nick for a second after he lets go, and then they move on.

“Magnum condoms,” I mutter when we’re in the next aisle. “Who is he kidding?”

Chapter Text

On Wednesday night after the girls are in bed, Nick asks if I want to go to a party on Friday. What party? Who? You got invited to a party? You go to parties? What? I have so many questions.

“His name is Scott,” Nick explains as Sprinkles, the cat formerly known as Princess Pussyfoot, brushes her tail along the underside of his jaw while he leans over the breakfast bar. “He’s another driver.” He shrugs, like this explains everything, but it actually does not.

“Okay,” I say, Sprinkles prancing over to me as if I’ve forgiven her for dropping a giant cat-load while Nick and I were trying to get it on last night. “And you met him…how? And the party is for…what?”

Nick quirks a smile, spoonful of ice cream halfway to that beautiful mouth that I want to kiss senseless. He’s eating vanilla. This makes me smirk because Nick is anything but vanilla. “June Osborne, asking why for a party?”

I shrug and act dismissive. “New times, Nick Blaine. New times. I need information. Now.”

Nick sighs, shoulders drooping, and rolls his eyes. “There’s a group for former drivers at the refugee center. Scott used to drive for some other asshole Commander two streets over from the Waterfords. He’s also Mayday. We got to talking about asshole Commanders.”

“So many assholes,” I sympathize.

“Anyway, it’s his and his girlfriend Mary’s one-year anniversary of being in Little America. They want to celebrate.”

I nod. “Cool. I’m down with that. Let’s do it.”

---

I’m wasted half an hour into the party. Wasted, and sexually frustrated by getting my sexytimes interrupted by a cat with an inconvenient digestive system. Nick excuses himself to go to the bathroom. He’s spent most of his time talking to Scott. Nick told me he was critical in helping me try to get out the first time. Nick doesn’t open up much about his life in Gilead (the parts that I didn’t see, at least), but he seems to have found some kinship in Scott, and for that, I am happy. I am grateful.

Scott’s girlfriend Mary is a former Handmaid. She used to be Ofjoseph – funny – but, like Emily, Commander Lawrence set her free a couple months ago. I would very much like to meet Commander Lawrence. We hear things about him every now and again, and it seems he is making quite a ruckus in Gilead. Waterford seems to be his personal nemesis, and he seems to take particular joy pissing Waterford off.

I’m in such a racy mood, so I follow Nick after half a minute. He’s just leaving the bathroom when I step out of the darkness. I grab both his wrists, twist them to the small of his back, and pin him to the wall behind him. I have something I would like to say.

“So I was thinking,” I say in a low voice, “that I would like to tie you up sometime.”

“What?” He looks at me in shock, but I can tell part of him is not even remotely surprised.

“Yeah,” I say, bold, staring him straight in those gorgeous brown eyes. “What do you think?”

“Uh…I haven’t thought about it.” But he swallows, and I wonder if he has thought about it. Maybe just for a second.

“No?” I ask coyly. “Do you like it?” I remove my right hand from his wrist and put it over his heart. It’s beating harder, jumping against my palm.

His hands are barely in my grip behind his back, but he doesn’t move them.

“I mean…” he says. “I’m not opposed to the idea.”

I raise my eyebrows and nod slowly, a considering expression on my face. My hand slides down his chest, down, down, down…

Mmhm. Not opposed, indeed. He’s totally turned on by it.

I slip my hand into his jeans and underwear. He’s hard, smooth, warm against my skin. I stroke my palm down, then press my heel against him.

“I could sit on your face,” I murmur as I take my free hand and curve my fingers along his cheekbone and jaw. Gently, I kiss his lips, my other hand stroking lightly, and he barely responds to my kiss. “You have such a pretty face.”

He is totally into this. He isn’t even making a sound, and what’s more, he hasn’t moved his hands, either, even though I don’t have them in my grip anymore. They’re flat against the wall behind his back now. I move my hand faster and work at his belt, and that’s when his hands move, desperately helping me unbuckle it. I pop the button free and unzip him, and he helps get his clothes out of the way so I can jerk him off better while I whisper some fantastically filthy things in his ear. He’s so hard, a result of felinus interruptus the other night, I’m sure, and when he comes, it’s gonna be good.

It is not long at all before he does, grabbing onto my shoulders and stiffening, face beautifully scrunched in ecstasy. I nip playfully at his ear while he tries to regain his breath.

Then I say, “You made a mess,” and pull back to look at him again. I wait till his hazy eyes meet mine before I put my finger into my mouth and suck the tip. “Better go clean up.”

I wash up first while he redresses, and then he’s behind me at the sink, wrapping his arms around my waist and resting his chin on my shoulder. I smile and rinse the blackberry-vanilla soap off my hands.

“I love you,” he murmurs. I shut off the tap and turn in his arms. He presses me back against the sink and latches onto my neck, and I laugh as he sucks. “I’m going to get you back,” he whispers, fingers starting to drag up my thigh under my dress.

“Dude,” snaps a voice from the hallway, and our heads whip toward the door. Petite Mary stands there, mock glowering at us. “Y’all wanted to get it on at my house, you coulda used the bedrooms upstairs. Get the fuck out. I need to pee, perverts.”

I snort as I pass her. “Maybe you should ease up on the wine.”

“My house, my wine, bitch.” She walks in and sits down, not even bothering to close the door.

“Whoa!” Nick says, looking scandalized.

“Mary, his virgin eyes!” I say, reaching up to cover Nick’s eyes.

Mary gets up and shuts the door. She forgot to put the seat up as well. “You’re as much of a virgin as Tanya Tammallamadingdong what’s-her-name in my sorority back in college,” she yells through the door. “Scott just opened a new bottle of Jim Beam, by the way. Go get trashed. Fuck Gilead. Motherfuckers.”

I laugh and drag Nick back to the party.

Chapter Text

I wear a scarf the next day. A blue one with pink flowers, yellow centers. Silky. Threaded through the belt loops of my white shorts. I have the day off.

Nick eyes the scarf on the way to drop the girls off at day camp and daycare, and his eyes stray to it when I drop him off at work. I lower my sunglasses and look at him over the tops.

“Have a good day,” I say with a smirk. He just stares, and I lean back in my seat, gloating.

At lunch, I stop by the center with Nick’s favorite sandwich from a local, refugee-run deli. I stand by his desk making idle chatter, flicking the ends of the scarf between my fingers.

He doesn’t look impressed. He looks uncomfortable.

When I leave, I see him readjust.


June leaves, and Nick watches her go, the hardness in his pants uncomfortable. Once she’s gone, he glances around, sees everyone busy with their work, and gets up from his chair. There is no way he can work with a hard-on like this.

Once he’s in a stall in the bathroom, he unbuckles and unzips as fast as he can, belt buckle clinking. He shoves his hand into his underwear and wraps it around his cock, eyes closing. He strokes slowly at first, picturing June, picturing her on his cock, facing him, weight back on her hands, that sexy smirk on her face. She’s wearing lingerie in his fantasy, a sexy babydoll top with lace. He loves when she wears lace.

His hand moves faster. He can’t help it. He’s painfully hard and so close already. He needs to come. Bowing his head, holding in his gasp, he steadies himself with his other hand on the wall of the stall. Eyes closed tight, faster and faster and so close, almost there –

The door bangs open. “Yeah, we can do that. Just need to put some money down first.”

Immediately Nick lets go of his cock, eyes flying open. The other guy is on his phone, not caring, apparently, that the other person can hear him doing his business at the urinal. Stifling a groan, Nick tucks his aching cock back into his dress pants and does his best to zip up and buckle over it.

It’s not going to be a good afternoon.


At dinner, I pull the scarf out of my shorts when Nick is distracted scooping food off of Holly’s face. When he turns back to the table, directing Hannah to eat her green beans, I’ve got it wrapped around my wrist and brushing the end back across my cheek. He swallows and looks like he’s about had it.

After we put the girls down, Nick yanks me into our bedroom and kicks the door shut. I’m about to admonish him for making noise, but his lips come down on mine in a bruising kiss and his hands grip my ass hard.

“You’ve been fucking with me all day, June Osborne,” he growls. “You’re going to pay for it.”

And then he smacks my ass, holy shit, he fucking smacks my ass.

And I am totally into it.

I give him an exaggerated conciliatory look and nod, playing into it. “You’re right,” I say. “I’ve been bad.”

Luke used to spank me occasionally, the whole “you’ve been naughty” thing, but he always smacked a little too hard and I was into it but…not 100%.

With Nick, though…I’m flooded with heat and already growing wet.

“On your knees,” I whisper, gently pushing on his shoulders. He goes down easily, not even resisting in the tiniest bit. Maintaining eye contact, I undo my shorts and push them and my underwear down. Then I throw my leg over his shoulder. The scarf is still twisted around my wrist and forearm. I don’t need it yet. For practicality purposes, I need Nick’s hands free.

And he knows exactly what to do with them.

They go immediately to my hips to stabilize me, and his face is between my legs in seconds. He’s eating me out hungrily, desperately, and I throw my head back.

“Get on the bed,” I order. I yank him up and start to move him backward. His dazed eyes say that he is totally into this, too.

We get to the bed and I shove him backward onto it. I climb up and move on hands and knees toward his face.

“Wait. June.” He moves away and props himself up on his elbows. “I’ve never done this before. I had to look it up.”

I quirk a brow. “You had to look up face-sitting.”

He nods. “I saw this, uh, this video – ”

I rip my top off over my head. I am wet as hell, and the fact that sweet Nick has never had someone sit on his face, that he didn’t even know what it was and had to google it, is an aphrodisiac to me.

“Well,” I say. “You’re going to love it.” But first… Looking down at his hands, I untwine the scarf from my arm. “Give me your hands.”

Nick does not resist. I take them, bind his wrists tight, and move his arms over his head.

“Are you ready?” I ask. He nods, looking a little unsure. But I know he’s going to love this. I know for sure.

I crawl up to him, knees on either side of his beautiful face, and steady myself with my hands against the wall. Then I lower myself. He licks once and I moan. Already it feels so good. My hands go to my breasts, head falling back, as he licks again, and I feel his shoulders shift. Already he’s struggling with the bonds, and I smile. He wants out. He wants to touch me.

He buries himself further in me, tongue moving more insistently.

“Do you like it?” I ask. All he says is, “Mmm,” and he licks me harder.

“Let me out,” he says, but I shake my head.

“Nope.”

Nick groans, disappointed. But it doesn’t stop him. He continues eating me out, getting more and more intense, and I’ve been so turned on the last few days that I’m there already. I let out a slow breath, eyes closed, looking forward to the release that will take the literal pain of arousal away. My core pulses, and my inner thighs hurt.

“God, you taste good,” Nick breathes. “I can’t get enough of you. Let me out.”

No, Nick.”

As if he’s punishing me for saying no, he ups his intensity. Now he’s just flat out being aggressive with it, as if that’s going to change my mind. Again his shoulders move as he struggles harder to be released. My arm drops from the wall and I grip one of those powerful shoulders.

“I’m going to come.” My other hand is squeezing my nipple, and my breaths are coming in pants. “I’m going to come, Nick.” My mouth goes dry, and I swallow. “I’m going to come on you,” I whisper.

This time the jerk of his shoulders is much harder.

“Do you want me to?” I ask. “Do you?”

“Yes,” he says. “Come on my face.”

I squeeze my core tighter and tighter, gasp for air a couple times…

Then Nick sucks on my clit and I’m gone, coming hard, crying out and saying his name because it’s so fucking powerful.

“Shit,” he says in awe. “You just got a lot wetter.”

My center moves over his slick mouth as I ride the climax out, and that’s it, that’s what must break him, because he gives one final jerk on the bonds and he’s free. His hands fly to my waist and now he’s the one moving me on him, and he’s still eating me out, holy shit. I’m about to come again when he shoves me over onto my back. Raising himself above me, keeping eye contact, he yanks his tie loose, unbuttons his shirt, and gets rid of both. The scarf dangles uselessly from one wrist. His pants go on the floor next, he grips his cock, and he shoves himself into me hard and fast, lips going to mine to kiss me. He’s hard as a rock, and he only gets this way when he’s extremely turned on.

Nick snaps his hips to mine, rough and fast. He’s fucking me hard, just the way I need it. I’m gasping and moaning and crying out for him, clawing at him to pull him closer. Nick moans, too, over and over, nonstop.

“Next I want to jerk you off while you watch porn,” I say between gasps, my words short and clipped. Nick grimaces and his head dips down. His hands clench the sheets, and he’s pushing his cock in me as deep as he can. It’s like he is touching my very core. “And I want to sit on your face again.”

“God, yes,” Nick says. “Get me off. I want to jerk myself off when you’re on my face, too.”

“Mm. I’d like that. Promise me.”

“I promise.”

My neck arches and my eyes close again for a moment as I feel my orgasm growing. “Make me come, Nick. You’ve got me so close.”

He groans again, teeth sinking into his lower lip, and the groan turns into a whimper. He leans down and kisses me slowly, passionately. “It’s so good, June.” Deep, deep deep he pushes himself. Then curses start falling from his mouth. “Fuck, fuck, fuck. I’m going to come. Shit.”

“Come on,” I urge, my voice husky. I’m barely able to speak. “Come on. I’ll come with you. I want you to come hard, thinking about me on your face – ”

“You come,” he interrupts. His eyes meet mine, desperate, totally dazed. “I don’t want – ”

“I will. I’m about to. Come, please – ”

And then he does, his last couple thrusts so hard and powerful they throw me over the edge, too. His hands clench the sheets into little bunches, that gorgeous face of his scrunching up, and it’s almost like he’s in pain. It goes on and on, him moving slowly in and out of me, and I’m clenching his cock tight.

Panting, he pulls out of me and collapses next to me, chest heaving with his exertion. I crawl on top of him and kiss him deeply, rubbing myself on him so he feels his own cum on his stomach as it slides out of me. I feel wild. Crazy for him. I can’t get enough, either.

I sleep very well that night.