Black And White
by Your Cruise Director

Eight months later, all his parts worked right except his dick. It wasn't that Bud couldn't get it up. He could, and did, regularly: in the shower, during the afternoons while Lynn was out at the dress shop, and sometimes in the middle of the night, in the bathroom, when he was sure Lynn was asleep. He just couldn't get it up with her.

The irony was that he always got off to the very images that prevented him from trying to make love to her. Lynn and Ed, starting in black and white, in those photos, her face pale and clear, his face shadowed by her chin as he devoured her throat. Ed and Lynn, turning to color, her lipstick staining his mouth, his fingers leaving small pink imprints on her hips...not enough to mark, not enough to hurt. Not like what Bud's fingers had done -- the raised red welts on her face, the purplish bruise beneath Ed's eye -- and wouldn't he do it again if he found them like that, like in the photos, wouldn't he break Exley's pretty nose and rip his fucking hair out, wouldn't he reshape Lynn's cheekbones the way he'd thought Patchett had done to make her look like Veronica fucking Lake, wouldn't he...

Shaking with fury, he would scratch at his own skin, at his scars. He was pretty fucking ugly now compared to pretty boy Exley -- maybe Lynn had liked Bud better, but Exley had never hit her, Exley had never hurt her. And from those pictures it looked like Exley had known what he was doing to her, oh fuck yes. Did she dream about that now, after months of Bud not being that she knew Exley wasn't such an asshole and maybe Bud was, maybe Bud was the kind of guy who'd sooner or later have had to do what he did to her, for one reason or another -- because Christ, couldn't he do it again? Yeah, he could -- to her and Exley both. The scars burned as he touched them, hurting like he'd hurt them, and the pain would channel to his dick and make him come.

He couldn't stay with Lynn. That much he knew, even though it killed him to admit it to himself, because she was trying so hard. She never complained, made no demands; and if her touch sometimes lingered, asking a question until Bud was forced to pull away before he answered it, she would apologize as if the flaw was in her. Once she went too far and felt more than she should have, till he had to walk to the park just to get away. When he got back, she asked him whether he saw her as a whore, now, and how could he answer? He wanted to see her as a whore, because of Ed. She'd been a whore and Ed had been a job, and she couldn't have liked it, hadn't wanted to do it, but it was what whores did.

If Lynn could use the word about herself, Bud thought he should have been able to use it too, just as easily -- take it and put it in the past the way she had. But he'd never thought of her as a whore until Exley. And if he touched her again, Bud knew, he might hurt her again the way he hurt himself. So he had to leave.

He thought he might move to a new city, do something else, be a fireman or a construction foreman or a teacher or something. But there was only one thing he'd ever wanted to be good at, and to get his old life back, he had to go through Ed, who still called to see how he was doing, and asked only to speak to Bud, not Lynn. Guilt, Bud told himself; all the kindness Ed had ever shown him could be attributed either to that or ambition or shared revenge. But ambition and revenge didn't explain why Ed kept calling to check up on him. It wasn't lik e Bud had anything to blackmail him with.

Eight months away had let him hate the fucker again, a little. If Exley seemed overjoyed at Bud's return, if he was all too eager to risk his new place in the department by pulling strings everywhere to make Bud his partner, it didn't really change anything. What Ed had done was unforgivable. It didn't matter who had set him up or why.

It was obvious that Ed was confused by Bud's remoteness, maybe thinking he was doing something wrong, either failing to take into account Bud's still-weakened state or the opposite, trying to compensate for it too much and treating Bud like a weakling. So some days Ed drove them both too hard, and some days he asked Bud if he needed a little time. On no day could Bud have told the truth: that from the moment he had laid eyes on Exley, back in L.A., he'd been seeing them together, Ed and Lynn, black and white in living color, and wasn't it a shock to feel that burn through him again, not to his fists, not to his throat, but right to his dick?

Ed never asked about what had happened with Lynn and Bud. At first Bud thought Ed was trying to spare his feelings. He tried, hesitantly, to explain about what had happened after Ed stopped him from nearly committing a murder -- going after what he thought was a man abusing his wife, until Exley made Bud realize the man was only trying to stop the woman from swallowing her own tongue during a seizure. Ed must have known that Bud would beat the shit out of him, trying to get past him to get to the couple, which Bud did. But Ed wouldn't let him apologize.

Still, Ed didn't want to hear about Lynn and didn't seem to want to think about her. He buried himself in work and didn't even go out, as far as Bud could tell, except when Bud and Ed went for drinks together. One night they actually got drunk together. Ed told Bud about losing his father and Rollo Tomasi, and then Bud told Ed about his father and his mother, even though they weren't really drunk enough to forget anything that got said.

In the morning they both woke up on Ed's sofa. He had convinced Bud not to try to drive home from his place, and for some reason had never made it into his bedroom, either. While Ed got them coffee, Bud told him the truth about Lynn -- how he'd had to leave because he'd been so sure he'd hit her again. Ed kept apologizing, which made Bud angry because he was sure Exley knew all the things he hadn't said, and then he wondered whether the fucker had been talking to Lynn; maybe he didn't ask about her because he'd been calling her ever since Bud came back to L.A.

Then Bud couldn't stay in Ed's living room for one more second but had to get away, home, by himself, in the bathroom, and when the pictures came into his head he could no longer see Lynn's face clearly but he could see Ed fine, in bright garish color, how Ed looked when he fucked, and Christ, Bud wished he had those pictures, the originals. It didn't matter how Lynn had looked because it was her fake face, her Veronica Lake face -- her whore face -- but that was the real Ed.

"You been talking to Lynn?" Bud asked two days later, in the patrol car, on the way back from a suspected arson that had probably been just stupidity and booze. He knew from the way Ed hesitated that yeah, he'd been right. And he also knew that it wasn't Lynn he wanted to hit, not this time. "Jesus fucking Christ, didn't waste any time, did you? How long? Planning on visiting her?"

But he didn't let Ed answer any of his questions, because he could see the answers in his mind like a series of pictures: Lynn on the phone, Ed in the car, Lynn opening the door in that white robe...and got out even though Ed was still rolling up to the stop light. If the car in the right lane hadn't been slowing down, being extra careful next to a patrol car, he would have gotten hit. He could hear Ed screaming his name, turning on the siren, turning around to come after him against traffic. But Bud was still a cop, still fast in spite of the injuries, and unless Ed was planning to pull a gun, he wasn't going to catch up.

When Bud got home that night, very drunk, with a girl whose name he didn't know who had long blonde hair, his front door had been jammed open. Ed was waiting, standing in Bud's kitchen by the sink like he was afraid to be too far away from it in case he needed to throw up. Bud tried to send the girl into the bedroom, but she got nervous and asked him to call her a cab, so he did, handing Ed a screwdriver to fix his lock in the meantime.

When the girl was gone, Bud went over to help, but the wood was splintering around the lock and it looked like the entire door might have to be replaced. "My home needs fucking police protection now, Exley," Bud growled, leaning against the doorframe and laughing, and Ed laughed too, nervously at first, then as wholeheartedly as Bud, until Bud had tears streaming down his face and was clutching at Ed, just trying to stay upright.

Ed got him away from the door and hauled him to bed, promising to jam a chair under the handle and stand watch. Even drunk, Bud could have killed Exley if he'd wanted to, so in the morning when he found him alive, he knew he must have forgiven him for breaking down the door. Ed was on his couch, using a towel as a pillow; he sat up the moment Bud stumbled out of the bathroom, sitting him down, getting him a drink. When Bud wiped his face with the towel it smelled like Ed, which puzzled him because he hadn't thought he knew what Ed smelled like. Of course he did sometimes, because they'd sweated and bled together; but he knew what Ed smelled like first thing in the morning with soap fresh on his skin, and late at night with smoke and booze reeking from his clothing. Still puzzling, Bud put the towel over his shoulder like a clue.

"I only called Lynn because I was worried about you," Ed told him when he came back in, as if there had been no break in the conversation in the car. "I don't know what you think, but it wasn't about her. She was your girl, Bud. I knew that...she's probably still your girl if you want her back. You damn well broke her heart, you know. She hates herself for what she did to you as much as you hate yourself for what you did to her."

"I left because I looked at her and saw a woman I loved enough to hit," Bud replied, then ran in the bathroom to puke again, and stayed there, on his knees, heaving, for maybe half and hour, ignoring the knocking, until Ed came in and picked him up and made him brush his teeth and wash and take off his stained shirt. "I hate you so much, Exley," he sobbed, and Ed said, "I know, I'm sorry," and then, "You can hit me if it's the only..."

He ended up fucking Ed right there in the bathroom, that first time, bent over the toilet, with Ed's hands on the lid and his legs spread wide on the tile, whimpering because Bud only had soap to make it easier. Even though Ed was shaking and his hands were slipping so much that Bud practically slammed his head into the tank a couple of times, he finished before Bud did, shooting over the side of the lid onto the towel Bud had thrown on the floor. Through the haze of motion, Bud watched the white spatters turn dark and vanish as they soaked in, like a photo developing in reverse. His fingers had left imprints on Ed's hips -- not enough to bruise, just enough to mark, and fading when he moved them. When Ed groaned and pressed back, Bud pictured his face in a black and white photo and came just like that, without wanting to hurt anyone.


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