She expects things to feel less shitty once she knows what happened to Benny.
After all, Dex reminds herself, pouring three fingers of bourbon into a jam jar to the chirp of the morning news, at least she’s got closure. Mystery: solved. Scab: picked. Not to mention the fact that in her experience it’s always nice to have confirmation that life is even more fucked up than you let yourself assume it was.
So really, she thinks, setting the empty jar aside and draining the rest of the bottle: it’s all good.
Admittedly: it does not feel particularly good.
She lets the battery on her phone leach to zero. Twice she blacks out before noon. When she wakes up in a pool of her own sweat for the third time in as many nights she throws back the covers, checks to make sure Ansel is asleep in his bed where he belongs, then heads out to a bar that isn’t the Alibi; forty-five minutes later she’s grinding herself into some stranger’s lap in a drafty condo in the Pearl District, completely unable to remember if she bothered to get a name.
“Want to move this party to the bedroom?” the stranger asks, which seems like as good an idea as any Dex has had lately. Still, she wishes she was drunker than she is. She tries to push the thought out of her head—to sit back, relax, and enjoy the gratifying numbness that comes with a pleasurable, anonymous lay—but as she butterflies her legs open on the mattress it suddenly occurs to her that for once in her life the person she wants between them isn’t some rando she’s never going to have to look in the eye again.
Fuck, it isn’t even Benny.
“I’ve gotta go,” she says, hopping upright and scooping her underwear off the carpet as the stranger gapes at her dazedly from the bed. “I just remembered I left my garage open.”
1:45 and she’s back in the driver’s seat, Stevie Nicks caterwauling from the tape deck. Two in the morning, and she’s banging on his door.
“Why didn’t you want to fuck me?” she demands.
Grey stares at her for a moment. Shakes his head once. “Don’t do this,” he warns her quietly, and something about the expression on his face—faintly heartbroken, utterly unsurprised—almost sends her running home with her tail tucked, ready to beg him to forget this ever happened.
But only almost.
“I’m not doing anything,” she says instead, brushing past him into his apartment. He’s in boxers and one of those white cotton tank tops he insists on wearing, like he’s someone’s Italian grandfather sitting in a lawn chair in Bensonhurst in 1971. His dark eyes are hooded with sleep. “In the motel on the way back from LA. We both know you could have, if you’d cared enough put a little muscle into it. So what?”
Grey doesn’t answer. “I mean it,” he says instead. “You’re worked up, you’re drunk, you want to pick a fight—”
“I’m not that drunk.”
“Well, then, that’s new for a change.”
Dex whirls on him, stung. “Screw you.”
“Screw me?” He looks almost amused, though not quite. “You’re the one showing up at my apartment in the middle of the night trying to burn our entire friendship down, Dex. You’re the one who’s being a—”
Grey rubs a hand over his beard, yanks it a little. “That’s not what I was gonna say.”
Dex ignores him. “Do you know I almost killed someone for you?” she asks instead.
“Do I—” Grey’s eyebrows crawl. “What?”
“During the drug thing, with Hoffman. While you were planning to hit the road with the Bonnie fucking Parker of the Beaver State, I was going a dozen rounds with the Colombian drug cartel’s answer to Jason Bourne.” She had no idea she was still mad about this, but apparently she is. Furious, actually. In fact, she can’t remember the last time she was so pissed. She would have ripped Violet’s throat out with her teeth with zero hesitation; she would have eaten her heart and spat the gristle out on the concrete if that’s what it had taken to save Grey’s life. “And the whole time you were packing your bags, ready to cruise off into the sunset with the lead singer of some culturally appropriative Bob Marley cover band—”
“They weren’t dreadlocks,” Grey insists peevishly, “and I wasn’t packing my bags. Seriously, what is your problem right now?”
“You are,” she says, then shoves him up against the refrigerator and slams her mouth into his.
She’s fully expecting him to balk, and he does for a second: the bulk of his body tense and resisting, his hands balled into fists at his sides. But Dex keeps at him, persistent—nudging his mouth open, biting at his plush bottom lip—and after a moment he kisses her back, though not particularly nicely. His beard rasps against the side of her face.
It’s enough. She takes the opportunity, wrapping her arms around his neck and sifting her hands through his hair, tugging a little. Grey hums a sound like surrender against her mouth. He’s kissing her like he means it now, his hands on her everywhere at once: squeezing her ass and thumbing at her nipple through the cotton of her t-shirt, reaching up underneath it to smooth rough palms along her ribs. Dex yanks at his hair, at his undershirt, at his waistband. She wants, she wants, she wants.
“Okay, wait,” he says finally, wrenching himself away from her. He’s bigger than she thinks of him as being, barrel-chested. She can feel his cock pressing up against the crease of her thigh. “Stop. Stop.”
“No,” Dex counters, sliding a hand down the front of his boxers. “What? Why? No stopping.”
“Jesus Christ, Dex.” Grey rolls his eyes even as his hips stutter, thrusting once into her palm. “What exactly are you planning to do here, take me by force? I don’t want to fuck you more than I want to keep being your best friend.”
“Aha.” For the first time since she got here, Dex smiles; she tilts her head to the side, playing at coy. “But you do want to fuck me.”
Grey doesn’t laugh. “I’m serious,” he says, reaching down and peeling her hands off his body, lacing his fingers through hers.
“Me too,” she says breezily. “And I’m just saying, sometimes a girl likes to be told.”
“Are you kidding me?” Grey’s eyes darken. He’s got a long fuse, but his patience isn’t infinite. “I don’t—like, is this whole thing a joke to you, or—"
“Of course it’s not a joke to me!” Her voice wavers dangerously. Dex takes a deep, steadying breath. She’s not above goading him into this, but she doesn’t want to do it with tears. “Grey,” she says, calm as she can manage, only then she can’t figure out how to follow it up. “Grey.”
Grey huffs a breath out through his nose. “Damnit, Dex.” Before she can react he’s flipped them so she’s the one with her back to the fridge, his grip hard enough to remind her that he spent a year and a half in prison; she knows how to fight, maybe, but so does he. “Promise me that if we do this you’re not going to sneak out when it’s over and I’m never gonna hear from you again.”
Dex swallows hard, the crown of her head thunking back against stainless steel. “I promise.”
Grey nods slowly. She can feel the moment he decides to believe her, all the tension draining out of his body. His voice is low and quiet in her ear. “Of course I want to fuck you,” he mutters, head falling forward like a supplicant’s, his cheek pressed against her temple. “I’ve wanted to fuck you for six years.”
She knew he did, obviously. She’s known this whole time, it wasn’t even buried particularly deep in the back of her subconscious, so there’s no logical reason for the sound of him saying it to make her momentarily lightheaded. “Okay,” she says, and it comes out a little breathless. “Good.”
He does laugh now—the skin around his eyes crinkling up, familiar. “Get on the bed, idiot.”
He takes his time about it, his fingers and his mouth and the weight of his body pinning her down against the mattress, the heel of her foot sliding against the ink on his back. He’s a car guy, a locksmith, a person who remembers that she doesn’t like water chestnuts and also, evidently, precisely how she likes to be touched; Dex thinks about him walking around for six years knowing exactly how to get her off and never saying anything about it, then squeezes her eyes shut and comes all over his hand.
By the time they’re finished the sky is turning blue out the window and all the sheets have migrated down off the mattress; Grey smells like sweat and like sleep and like Dex. Every time she rakes her nails along his spine he shivers, so she keeps doing it. Tries to pretend she isn’t mapping the quickest path to the door.
“Don’t leave,” he mutters, and she startles, though she guesses he wouldn’t exactly have to be a mind reader.
“I’m right here,” she says into the pillow. “Also, I’m extremely naked.”
Grey hums a dubious sound. “There are other ways to go,” he reminds her, but by the time she rolls over to look at him his eyes are closed and he’s sleeping, long lashes making shadows on his face in the early morning light.