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you didn't have to be so nice

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Rubber Soul is playing on the hi-fi, vague ideas are flowing into a steady stream of words on his legal pad, and Ken's still got a couple gulps of beer left in his pint glass. It's a good night—peaceful—and it's suddenly interrupted by the phone ringing.

Cynthia gets up from the couch to grab it, putting her stack of manuscripts aside to rush into the bedroom, and when she comes back half an hour later, her face is pinched and tense. “That was Trudy.”

Even from his desk across the room, he can see his wife's eyes glistening with unshed tears. Cyn's a sunny person normally, but when a close friend is down, she really takes it to heart. She genuinely cares about other people's feelings. He's always liked that about her.

“What'd she say?” he asks. Campbells are having a bad year. The tearful calls from Trudy are getting more frequent, and Pete's as sour as ever when he's not schmoozing clients.

Cynthia shakes her head as if she doesn't quite know what to tell him, then sighs, leaning back into the blue sofa cushions as she meets his worried look. “Would you be upset if she and Tammy came to—stay with us? For a little while?”

Jesus. What the hell did Pete  do?

“A little while?”

She nods. “She didn't say how long. Maybe just a few days? Or a week?”

“No,” he says, getting up to sit beside her and put a hand on her knee. If things are that serious, a few days is nothing to him. “That's—just tell her to come. It's fine.”

The next night—Friday—he comes home to find the two women sitting close together on the couch, drinking wine, smoking cigarettes, and talking so quietly together it's as if they've switched on the radio and left the room.

“Hey, you two,” he says as he hangs up his coat and hat, forcing cheerfulness into his voice. He walks over to them, kisses Cynthia on the cheek, and puts a hand on Trudy's shoulder before sitting in an armchair across from the sofa. After he's settled, Cynthia gets up, giving them an apologetic smile.

“Dinner's in the oven. I'm just going to go check on it.”

“Okay,” he says. And suddenly, he's alone with Trudy, and it's the first time he's really seen her in months. Maybe even since he went to dinner at their house with Megan and Don.

She's dressed in dark leggings and a green floral blouse, with her long hair in a single braid. Her face is pale, and dark circles shadow her eyes. Her mouth is set into such a worried line that it actually makes him anxious. He guesses it's because he's so used to seeing her at company events. She's always on at parties— upbeat and talkative and fun. It's awful to see her so depressed. Trudy's the type of person you never want to be sad.

“How's Miss Tammy doing?” he asks first, quietly, deciding not to voice the stupid question.

This brings a ghost of a smile to her face. “Sleeping. Thankfully.”

A short silence hangs over the living room. She obviously doesn't feel like talking.

“Here,” Ken says, gesturing toward the empty wine glass on the end table on her left in an attempt to get her to hand it to him. “You need a refill. Let me get it.”

That night, Cynthia whispers the truth to him when they're alone in the privacy of their bedroom, and Trudy's passed out on the fold-out couch. “He had an affair with their neighbor's wife. And Trude doesn't want to go to her parents' place. It's so embarrassing.”

Jesus,” he exclaims, almost forgetting to whisper. Pete's always been a selfish jackass, but this is a new low. The man's got a kid, for god's sake. Stepping out doesn't just affect him, but his whole family, too. Thinking about it makes Ken angry for a lot of reasons he can't really explain.

“I'm just glad she's here,” Cynthia says, looking forlorn with one hand tucked under her cheek. “She doesn't need to be alone right now.”

Ken brushes a lock of blonde hair away from his wife's face with the tips of his fingers, and sighs out a breath. “It's not gonna be a week, is it?”

Cynthia shakes her head no. He kisses her briefly in an attempt to tell her that's fine.

**

At first, it's awkward having another person around all the time. Cyn and Trudy shared a room at some publishing thing in the city, years ago, and they're both girls, so it's not weird. But Ken keeps forgetting to make himself decent for company. He'll shuffle into the kitchen in his shorts before he's had any coffee, bleary-eyed and stupid with sleep, and stands at the counter for minutes at a time before realizing Trudy's already up, showered, and standing next to him at the stove making oatmeal for Tammy's breakfast.

One Saturday, he wakes up when it's still pitch-dark and can't get back to sleep, so he gets up at four in the morning and takes a long shower. When he gets back to the bedroom, blue towel held around his waist with one hand, Cyn and Trudy are lying side by side in bed in their pajamas and chatting comfortably by the low light of his table lamp.

He barely gets inside the door before seeing Trudy, swearing, and then trying to cover himself with his free hand. “Oh, crap. Sorry.”

The girls giggle like gossipy teenagers at his panicked look, then exchange a glance he can't decipher before Trudy says, in a teasing voice, “Well, aren't you in good shape.”

Cynthia actually cackles at this.

“Uh. Thanks,” Ken mumbles, moving to the dresser across from the bed to pull out some clean clothes, and wishing he wasn't giving off such a full view in this stupid towel. Why is it so small? He feels like an damn idiot.

“Aw, are you blushing?” Cynthia asks, with a squeal that says she thinks it's cute. “From where I'm sitting, the view is great.”

“Jeez. You may scare Trude away with that kind of talk,” Ken says, trying to make a weak joke as he grabs a t-shirt from the top drawer. He's just gonna change in the bathroom. If Cyn keeps this up she's gonna get him going for real, and then they'll all be embarrassed.

Trudy isn't one for self-deprecating humor, apparently. “Oh, Ken, you're very healthy. Honestly, I think it's nice to see a married couple who are fond of each other.”

And now he definitely is blushing, because the brisk compliment is like something you'd hear from your mom or grandma. Healthy. What the hell does that even mean? It's not like he wants his wife's girlfriend to compliment him, but at least when she pretended to dig him, the joke was clear, and they were all in on it. This is just awkward. So awkward. He's gotta get out of here.

In the bathroom, he yanks on his shorts and t-shirt and pants in a panicked frenzy, as if the girls are still staring at him as he gets dressed. He splashes some cold water on his face, and after another second of thought, pitches the tiny towel into the trash. Not wearing that in front of anyone ever again.

**

In other ways, sharing an apartment with two people is easy.

Ken and Cynthia have always had a kind of messy place. They both work long hours. It's easier to build up some savings if they're both working. Plus, Cyn told him when they met that she was no Doris Day, and they're not planning on kids for years, so keeping house has never been a priority.

The fact that a third person's at home to keep the apartment looking nice is actually pretty refreshing. They did have to have a conversation about the degree of cleanliness. For a couple weeks, it felt like the common rooms were a museum exhibit. Ken just maintains that as long as he's allowed a desk full of scrap paper and he's not stepping on toys, anything else is peachy. He's not the one cleaning, so he's not gonna be picky.

After that, the girls turned the second bedroom into a nursery-slash-storage space. They reorganized the master closet and the hall closet. They're like organizing wizards. Ken has no idea how they did it, but the apartment feels more put together, too. Framed pictures which lived in the closets or in storage suddenly get hung on the walls. The torn curtains in their bedroom get repaired. Trudy even repaints the wall in the second bedroom which got damaged by a leak last summer. Yellow and light green pinstripes, for Tammy.

Baby furniture slowly migrates in, and the place gets baby proofed, too. Occasionally Ken misses being able to set stuff down without worrying about it walking away or getting chewed on. He gets over this around the same time he accidentally leaves a stack of several hardcover books on a low coffee table, and Tammy manages to pull them all down on top of her. When she starts screaming, he's the first one in the room, pulse through the roof as he tosses the books aside, pulls out his handkerchief, and holds it to her bleeding nose, stroking her hair with his other hand and murmuring to her in the gentlest voice he can manage.

She's fine. Twenty minutes later, she's toddling around the living room gurgling ba! ba! at Trude and Cyn – her word for bath. But it scares the crap out of him. After that, he doesn't even care if they have kid stuff in the living room. He tells the girls they should just put a playpen in one corner. It can go by the hi-fi. Tammy might like the music in the morning, after breakfast. Trude's eyes shine when he suggests this, and she puts a hand to his cheek in silent thanks.

Don't even get him started on the food. Cynthia's a decent cook, but it's an effortless skill for Trudy. She's basically a gourmet; she makes the kind of home-cooked meals you'd get at your parents' on Christmas Day. Every night. It's amazing. When he and Cyn stagger home from work after stressful days, Trude's got cocktails ready, and engages one or both of them in light conversation, depending on who gets home in what order. She tells them about the mother's playgroup she's joined around the corner, or projects she'd like to accomplish around the house.

Dinner is usually lively and full of debate—they talk current events, news, literature, art—and it only stops so Trudy has time to cut up the baby's food into more pieces or wipe sauce from Tammy's hands and face. She graduated Vassar with honors, for god's sake. He's embarrassed to admit he never really knew that much about her at all. Pete never said a word.

If Ken's out late with a client dinner, Trude just puts his plate in the oven. She and Cyn have dinner, talk, edit manuscripts, and play with Tammy until it's time to put the the baby to bed. Once Ken comes home, he eats, they all relax in the living room for awhile, then call it a day.

Every night as they're changing for bed, Cynthia swears she's going to have to start dieting if they keep this up. But she cleans her plate like a starving wolf, especially the night Trude makes lamb chops in some kind of chipped gravy, with mashed potatoes and green beans on the side. God. His mouth waters just thinking about those. Hands down, the best lamb chops he's ever had.

So his clothes are fitting a little tight. He'll walk around the park on weekends or something.

**

One night, he wakes up to the sound of muffled crying. He blinks his eyes open to see Cyn sitting up in bed—there's a sliver of light in the doorway—and he's about to panic and ask what's wrong, to put a hand on her arm, when she clears her throat. Her voice is rough with sleep.

“Come in here, honey.”

Soft padding of bare feet on carpet, and the sobbing gets a little louder. It's Trudy, he realizes—Trudy's crying—and he quickly closes his eyes, pretending not to notice as the bed dips slightly under them and the other woman crawls in beside his wife.

“Hey,” she's whispering to Trude, drawing the covers up over her friend, “shh, it's okay.”

“S-sorry,” comes a small, broken gasp. “I'm just—blue.”

Ken's pulse hammers against his skin. He can feel himself sweating as he tries not to move, not to draw attention to himself. Just keep your eyes closed, and breathe like normal. In, out. Trudy doesn't want you to see her upset. Best thing to do is pretend not to hear it.

“Don't you dare be sorry.” From his place beside his wife he can feel Cynthia's arm moving a little, possibly stroking Trudy's hair or rubbing her back, just trying to calm her down. He feels his chest tighten with a rush of emotions between anxiety and relief. She's taking care of her. Good. By reflex, he curls closer, pressing his forehead into the muscle of his wife's left shoulder like he's just going to go back to sleep. He feels her sigh at the contact. She knows.

After a moment, Trudy speaks, voice quiet but frantic. “Is he—”

“Zonked out,” Cyn whispers, shaking her head a little. “He's just cuddly.”

Ken can almost picture the wink that accompanies this, the full-lipped smile she'd give to reassure Trudy everything was okay. He doesn't really know why she has to lie – what would be the harm if he was up and listening? Trudy could talk to both of them. But at the same time, he doesn't want to break the spell. Whatever's happening is important. She needs a friend. She ought to stay.

There's another sob. Trudy's crying again. It makes him want to kill Pete, to be honest.

“Close your eyes,” Cyn says next, after several minutes. He can feel her chest rise and fall as she takes a deep breath. “Try to breathe, okay?”

“Okay.” A gulp. He can feel Trudy shifting on the other side, subtly trying to clear the congestion from her throat. Maybe she's still crying. He can't tell. But she pulls the covers up toward her shoulders. He can feel the springs creak as she tries to get comfortable.

“Love you,” Cyn murmurs into the silence much later, voice drowsy and slurred. Ken doesn't know if she's talking to him or Trudy, but half-asleep, he doesn't even question it. The fan whirs gently overhead, his wife's soft and warm in his arms, and Trudy's tears have faded into soft breaths.

**

One night, Trude meets an old college friend for dinner in the city. He and Cynthia eat together, take care of the baby, and put Tammy down for the night with no problem. After Tammy's asleep, they watch tv and try to do a little work, but the sudden silence – the absence of a third person in the house – is more distracting than anything he could put on the hi-fi.

After about an hour, Cynthia puts her work aside, and comes over to put a hand on his shoulder. “Wanna fool around? I need to shower.”

Hell yeah.

They're in the middle of things—Cyn's back is pressed against the tile wall as he screws these little whimpers out of her, jets of hot water hitting his back as he moves, the steam rising around them and coaxing sweat from their damp bodies—when there's a knock at the door, and Trudy's cheerful voice on the other side.

“Cyn, honey? You in there?”

He's staring at his wife in shock, mouth hanging open, eyes wide, desperately needing to move and knowing he can't, because  if he moves Cyn's gonna come. She's so close.

“Yeah,” Cyn manages after a moment, voice rough and quavering. Her hazel eyes are dark with lust, and she's gripping his shoulders like it's taking all her effort not to fall apart. His legs and arms are shaking trying to keep them both upright.

“Well, don't take all the hot water,” Trudy replies, almost in a sing-song way. “I'll drag you out by the waist if I have to.”

And he feels Cyn contract around him, tight, like the thought of Trudy walking in on them might just send her over the edge. Jesus. He can't even think at that point, just moves— it doesn't take more than a few thrusts before she's squirming against the wall, one hand clawing against the tile, making these desperate gasping noises. He comes not long after, forehead braced against her shoulder.

“Look who's all clean,” Trude says later, as he comes into the bedroom alone, wearing shorts and a white t-shirt. Her voice has a little mischief in it, though she barely looks up from the paperback book she's reading. Anne of Windy Poplars.

He flushes from his ears down to his neck, hoping she didn't hear anything too weird, and tosses his dirty clothes toward the blue laundry hamper in the closet. Most of them fall to the floor around it. He doesn't pick them up, deciding to grab a glass of water from the kitchen instead.

“Yep.”

**

In the end, it's sharing the bed that gets to him. One night, his bed was his own – or at least his and Cynthia's – and the next, it's theirs . Not like he's a square, but it's not exactly something he was able to plan for. And there's not a lot of private time.

Now, more often than not it's the three of them together, every morning and night. As they get ready for bed, the transistor in the corner of their room's playing low classical music, which Trude finds soothing. Cyn's always the first one under the covers, lying in the crack of two pillows and grinning at the two of them. She always wears these silk, peter-pan collared pajamas. They're adorable. On the other hand, Trudy's the last one to get in; usually so she can get one last thing ready for the morning or because she's checking in on Tammy. What's funny is that she wears these crazy voluminous nightgowns to bed, like she's the star of her own epic film. Every time he gets a glimpse of gauzy fabric he starts grinning, and puts on this bad falsetto.

“I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.”

It's a little dumb. He says that every time she wears her black and white striped nightgown in particular. Cynthia always swats at him. But Trude always laughs. He likes that he can make her laugh.

About two months after they start sharing the bed, he falls asleep thinking about some Debbie Reynolds movie, starts dreaming, and wakes up in the middle of the night rubbing himself against Cynthia's thigh like a dog in heat—he's so hard, they haven't had sex in weeks and he feels like he's gonna burst, he needs her, he needs—

—and suddenly a hand is pulling him out of his shorts, firm and hot and tight and holy shit, it's so good, he thrusts into it, whines and whimpers in the back of his throat as she works him faster, biting his lip to keep himself quiet, trying to keep his hips still. He can hear muffled gasping. His name being whispered in the dark: come on, Ken, come on. Don't wake Trudy, is all he can think—don't wake Trudy, don't —the pad of her thumb swipes over his head twice and he has to clench his jaw as he comes hard—

He conks out afterward, like he's in high school or something, and when he wakes up a couple hours later, the bed is empty and the sun's already up. So he walks into the living room, pulling on his flannel bathrobe and trying to flatten his hair with one hand. Tammy's in her playpen wearing a diaper and a cotton dress, babbling to herself and trying to gnaw on her bare toes. Trude and Cynthia are washing dishes in the kitchen, whispering and giggling to each other, their faces pink from standing over a sink full of steaming hot water.

“Uh, what'd I miss?” he asks, raising an eyebrow at them.

Cyn sticks her tongue out at him, playfully flinging the dish towel in his direction. “Nothing, honey. We're just gossiping.”

“Fun,” he says dryly, looking to Trudy to see how he should interpret this.

She smiles at him, voice fond but firm, and makes a shooing motion in his direction. “ You need to shower. Breakfast is in the skillet, but after that we're going to do laundry, then go to the park.”

“Okay, okay,” Ken mumbles, sheepish, but he's so relaxed that it doesn't really hit him until he's under the spray and soaping himself up. Come on, Ken. Come on.

Cynthia never calls him Ken in bed. She never calls him Ken at all, except when she's upset. He has to put his hand to the tile wall to keep himself steady on his feet.

Trudy jerked him off. And he liked it. Jesus.

**

His brain is stuck on what the hell for the next three days.

Ken feels totally scrambled. He can't concentrate. Joan snaps at him twice in the Tuesday status meeting because he just keeps zoning out. But they keep talking about chasing Chevy and Pete and Roger staying in Detroit to woo them and all he can think about is Trudy's hand around him as Cynthia slept in the middle, and Jesus Christ, this cannot be normal. Who does this?

He gets so desperate for any kind of advice that he even asks Stan about it at the end of the day, slips it into the end of a conversation about the girl Stan's with now, like it's just something people ask other people for no apparent reason. “This is gonna sound weird, but—have you ever, uh, been with more than one girl? At a time?”

“The elusive menage a trois ,” Stan sighs as he blows out a puff of smoke. “Two years ago, man. It was hot.”

“Okay,” Ken says awkwardly, scratching his neck.

There's a long pause. Stan starts to laugh, the sound so loud and obnoxious it practically fills the room. “This isn't about Chevy, is it? Because I'm gonna lose my shit if it's about Chevy.”

“You're retarded,” Ken snaps back, and leaves it at that.

**

Later in the week, he gets seriously, stupidly desperate—enough to ask an idiotic question after dropping the media purchase forms onto Harry's desk.

“Have you ever, uh, read about three ways?” Trying to shrug, like it doesn't matter. “I was talking to Stan earlier, and he mentioned this...thing.”

“What, that girl in Playboy?” Harry unwraps a blue Tootsie Pop and sticks it in his mouth as he looks over the forms. He's trying to quit smoking again. Jennifer's expecting. “God. I was so hard last night I was a walking tripod. I mean, it was painful .”

Nope. Mistake. Never again.

**

He's holed up in a diner at two in the afternoon, facing down half a reuben and fries, still trying not to think about it, and failing. And he's pretty sure Cynthia knows what happened that night, because she keeps touching his arm when they're all getting ready for bed, asking if he's okay—if he wants to talk. And Trudy keeps making all his favorite foods for dinner, as if the perfect meal will coax a confession out of him—

With no hello, Peggy slides into the booth across from him. She tosses her purse at the seat, and sets her chipped coffee cup onto the blue vinyl table. When she speaks, her voice isn't loud, but it sure as hell isn't meek. “Why did you ask Stan about threesomes? You're not that guy.”

Ken drops his sandwich and turns fourteen shades of red. “How did you hear about that?”

She's in the middle of lighting a cigarette, and shrugs like it should be obvious, exhaling in a jet of smoke. “Ginsberg.”

God damn it, Stan.

**

“No—okay, Peg—I guess I'm just—confused.”

Peggy stares at him over the rim of her coffee cup, pale eyes studying his face. There's a short beat of silence. “So, you're all sharing a bed, but you're not...sleeping together.”

“I can't talk about this anymore,” he groans, trying to keep his voice down, and rubbing at his face with an anxious hand. He can't meet her eyes. “It's too weird.”

He needs to get better friends. Male friends. This is insane.

“Well, you need to talk to someone. Unless you want to keep panicking.”

In sheer desperation, Ken flags down the waitress for another cola. Peggy gives him an airplane bottle of whiskey she finds stashed in her purse, and by the time he's halfway through the spiked drink, he thinks he's got a handle on the words. Not the feelings. Those are totally mixed up.

“Aw, I can't say it to a girl,” he mumbles finally, running a nervous hand over his hair. “You're like my sister.”

She raises her eyebrows, but just opens her purse, pulling out a notepad and ballpoint pen. “Here's what we'll do. I'm gonna go to the restroom. When I get back, you go. I'll read...whatever is written on that piece of paper. And then we can talk.”

Is it weird? Absolutely.

Is he gonna do it? Well, it's not like he's got much of a choice.

Peggy sweeps out of the booth with a little huff, leaving him alone at the table. Ken stares at the notepad in his hand, feeling extra awkward because the header says Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce— but eventually he takes the pen in hand, and starts to write, trying to be as vague as possible.

I was dreaming, and got going, and when I woke up, somebody started working the slide rule. Wasn't C.

**

When he comes back to the table after several minutes of smoking outside, Peggy's face is pink all over, like she's been laughing hysterically, or like she's really embarrassed, but thankfully she doesn't even flinch as he sits back down. A plate heaped with steaming french fries now sits in front of her, and she pops one in her mouth as she looks over the piece of paper again, then folds it in half, and pushes it aside.

“Will you say something?” he complains finally. “You're driving me nuts.”

“Were you—loud?” is the first thing she asks, pulling a face like she knows it's the worst kind of awkward question.

Ken feels his cheeks and neck heat up, looking quickly around to make sure no one overheard. “ Peg!

“Relevant,” she snaps. “Just answer.”

“...I don't know. Jesus.”

“Fine. Anything weird happen the next day?”

He exhales a shaky breath, relieved to get away from the worst of the questions. “Um. Okay. I woke up, they were in the kitchen giggling. Trudy told me I should shower, and then—” he throws his hands in the air as if in surrender, “I—remembered.”

“Well, I'm sure they both felt it,” Peggy says, matter-of-fact. “If you were loud, or—” she waves a vague hand toward the ketchup bottle, briefly looking away, “moved a lot....you probably woke everyone up anyway.”

Okay. He's thought about this from probably a million different angles, but none of them involved Cynthia being awake, feeling him move against her, feeling Trudy touch him, and just letting it happen. Why would she do that unless she—

Peggy makes a considering noise, popping another french fry in her mouth and speaking between bites. “Maybe it's supposed to be an experiment. All three of you.”

“What.” His mouth drops open slightly as the words sink in, followed by vivid images. The three of them together. The girls in bed, in the dark, waiting for him. Trudy in her flowing negligee, and Cyn in her collared pajamas. Cyn would lean in to kiss Trudy, soft and slow and—

Jesus. He's going to die of embarrassment. He's going to sweat through his collared shirt. The word experiment is just rumbling around his brain like an endless, stupid echo.

Peggy just snorts out a breath through her nose at his sorry condition. “Joyce says it usually happens in college. Girls...try things. It's in the Kinsey report.”

“It ever, uh, happen to you?” he says roughly, clearing his throat.

She gives him the same shit-eating grin Stan wears when he thinks something's hilarious which is disturbing as hell if he really thinks about it—but when she speaks her voice is as dry as ever . “I went to Miss Deaver's.”

“So...not there,” he says stupidly, voice cracking like a twelve year old kid, and she laughs again, louder this time, and throws her balled-up napkin into his flushed face.

“You're an idiot.”

Figure it out, is the subtext. If he can ever get his brain back online.

**

He blows off work for the rest of the day. Makes up some account lead and just walks around midtown for a couple of hours. Until he feels like he can go home without acting like a complete moron. When he walks in the door with a cellophane-wrapped bouquet in one hand, he hangs up his coat and hat before realizing he left his briefcase at the office. Oops. Hopefully Clara won't rat him out.

A wordless gurgle of delight gets his attention as a little blonde girl runs across the apartment to hug his calf. “Hi, Tammy-bear,” he says, ruffling her hair with his free hand. “Where's your mama?”

She buries her face in his shin, babbling out a couple of nonsense words that probably mean food, then toddles back into the living room toward her favorite stuffed elephant.

“Well, hello,” Trudy interrupts in a bright voice, walking out into the hallway from the kitchen. “I wasn't expecting you for another hour.”

“Yeah, I, um—left early.”

Her gaze drifts to the bouquet, eyes going soft. “You bought flowers?”

“Oh,” he says sheepishly, glancing at the bundle of daffodils in his hand, and presenting them to her, absentmindedly leaning in to kiss her cheek. “Yeah. I thought...you two would like them.”

She sighs, hugging him a little with one arm before he pulls away, then letting go in order to take the bouquet to the sink. “Well, we'll put them on the table. They're beautiful.”

He follows her into the kitchen, leaning against the counter as she slices open the cellophane and begins to cut ends from stems with a pair of scissors.

“What'd you guys do today?” he asks.

“Oh, just the usual errands. It was quiet.” A pause. “Although I talked to Peter after breakfast, and that went...very well.”

“Really?” Ken asks. “He called you?”

He didn't realize Pete even knew where she was. The guy hasn't talked about it at all during work, even before he left for Detroit. Not that he's asked.

She makes a noise of assent. “I told him I was staying here for a while, in case he needed to get in touch. He seemed...encouraged to know Tammy and I weren't alone.”

“As encouraging as he gets, anyway,” Ken jokes. Trudy turns around to swat at his arm, but she's laughing a little, so he guesses it's fine.

“Peter knows my friendships are important to me,” she says as she fills a vase with water.

Ken's not sure how to respond to this—whether it means Pete's given this weird arrangement his blessing—or, more likely, that he's just glad to have one less headache in his personal life. Trude and Tammy like it here. He hopes so, anyway.

“Well,” he clears his throat, awkwardly, “we love having you with us. So it works out.”

Trudy's smile is radiant as she turns to him with a vase full of flowers. It makes his chest tighten with happiness, the same way it does when Cynthia kisses him on a lazy Sunday or when Tammy pushes a scribbled mess of a drawing into his hands.

“Set those on the table?” she asks, and he nods once. Their hands brush as she puts the glass into his hands. He pretends not to notice.

**

Cynthia brings home a couple bottles of nice wine as a surprise, and by the time Tammy's down for the night they've already polished off the first. Dishes go in the sink to soak for a few minutes, which is funny, because usually he and Cynthia are on those as soon as the table's clear. Tonight, Trudy just waves them both away from the sink and back into the living room with a brisk motion.

“Not so fast. We're going to relax.”

They end up sitting on the floor. Ken's stretched out with his back against the sofa. Cynthia's on his right, sitting back on her haunches. Trudy's leaning against the coffee table to his left, hugging her knees to her chest, although her legs are mostly obscured by her enormous floral skirt.

They start telling jokes, then progressively dirtier jokes, and then, Cyn suggests a game of charades. Trude makes a delighted noise. He waves his hands in a motion that says forget it, but can't get more than a couple words into an explanation before he starts laughing and sputtering.

“I don't trust you,” he manages to say, tapping the side of his nose and mock-glaring at Trudy. “Your hands wander.”

“Why are you looking at me? ” she squeals with a laugh, eyes widening.

“You know why.”

It slips out before he can catch himself. He goes silent, and Trude's smile falters.

Cynthia's the one to break the awkward pause, looking visibly intrigued by his slip. “Are we finally going to talk about that? Fabulous .”

“Cynthia!” Trudy chides, but she's grinning.

Ken rubs a palm over his forehead, feeling his neck and face flame hot. “Oh—so you both—”

“There's no reason to be embarrassed,” Trudy interrupts, gently. “You couldn't sleep. It's a natural urge.”

He can't even look at them. “No, it's just that I thought I was, uh. Losing my mind.”

“Oh, honey, you had an itch scratched,” Cynthia says, in the same easy, dismissive tone she might use to say you had your teeth cleaned .

Ken's so relieved he almost feels dizzy. “I know , but I—thought you'd be—mad.” Taking one last gulp of his wine and setting the glass aside. “Because it wasn't...you.”

“Please,” Cynthia replies, with a short huff of laughter. “Trude liked that almost as much as you did. You should have seen her face.”

Ken whips his head up to stare at them, just in time to see the girls exchange the slyest look he's ever seen, identical smirks spreading over their faces like they're thinking about a shared memory, like they have their own personal experience from that night. And now he thinks about it all over again: Cynthia waking up to see Trudy watching them with dark eyes, watching him as he moved and moaned in his sleep. Maybe she gave the brunette woman a wink, or a grin, biting her lip to keep from giggling. Mouthing encouragement. Faster.

“You...did?” he says hoarsely, looking from Cyn to Trude with widening eyes.

“It's too bad you fell asleep after,” Cynthia says, putting a hand on her friend's knee. Ken can't look away from his wife's slender fingers, imagining them curving inward, stroking up creamy white skin under the hem of the other woman's floral dress. “We were talking about it later, and I said we ought to have a little more fun together. All of us.”

Oh. He breathes out sharply.

Trudy's cheeks are pink, but she's meeting his eyes in a feral way that dares him to take her up on it. “Ken. Are you interested?”

“I,” he stutters, gaze dropping to stare at Trudy's full mouth, “yeah—Cyn, are you—”

“It's okay,” his wife replies, taking his hand just as Trudy kisses him.

It's a hell of a kiss, long and slow, and Trude rubs the heel of her hand against the fly of his pants as she does it, which just makes him crazy, makes him whine in the back of his throat. When he comes up for air he feels like he's been drugged. She's practically sitting in his lap, now, knees planted on either side of his thighs.

“Kenny likes your hands,” Cynthia says, giving him a wink and moving behind Trudy, sweeping long dark hair out of the way to kiss the side of her neck. Ken can't look away, watches the other woman tilt her head back onto his wife's shoulder and close her eyes in pleasure at the touch. He takes Trudy's waist in his hands, nuzzles into the left side of her body, his hands and mouth mapping over her breasts and the exposed skin of her low neckline. Cyn takes the opportunity to kiss Trudy in languid intervals, only stopping to nip gently at the other woman's jaw and neck with her teeth.

“Oh,” Trude breathes, over and over, like it's so much and not enough. He can feel her hips grinding against him with every new caress. God.

Cynthia's the first one to pull away, one of her hands gently covering his to get his attention.

“Come on,” she says gently, with a significant look at Tammy's closed door. “If I don't get you two in the bedroom soon, somebody is gonna scream.”

Yeah. Okay.

His wife grins at him in the dirty way he loves, tip of her tongue peeking out from between her teeth. She gets to her feet, and helps Trudy from his lap, leading everyone into the other room. It's not until the door is closed behind them that he realizes they're daisy-chained together, holding hands like they're on a school field trip. Cynthia seems to notice this, too, squeezing Trudy's hand briefly before letting go, and grinning at them both. “Clothes off, kids.”

Trudy giggles, releasing his hand, and even he can't help laughing. It's almost too weird—the three of them tossing articles of clothing aside and casually getting naked together—until the point when Ken looks over and sees Trudy in her long-line bra, satin blue panties, and nylons. She watches his face go slack as she unclasps her bra, slowly letting it drop away from her body to reveal pale, full breasts and dusky nipples. Then, all awkwardness goes out the window and he just wants .

Ken ends up pressed behind her against the dresser, mouth on her neck and hands on her breasts. Cyn uses the opportunity to touch Trudy slowly, almost teasing, one hand sliding up the inside of the brunette's full, soft thigh and over her most sensitive areas with a featherlight touch, then with more sureness, fingers venturing inside with fast strokes until the other woman's gasping out Cynthia's name. Her body is tense against his, like a poised bowstring.

He slides one hand over Trude's stomach, panting in her ear, while his hips grind desperately against hers for friction. Cyn's hand works faster, and she leans in to kiss Trudy, who suddenly arches against them, shuddering in their shared embrace.

He's so hard he can't think, and so when Trudy shifts position, urging Cynthia backwards and leading them both to the bed, he stumbles there on jelly legs, practically falling onto the mattress as he lies back. His wife moves to straddle his stomach, casting a sly look at Trudy on her left, who's watching them both with dark eyes. Cyn just grins, takes his face in both her hands, and kisses him deeply—dirty, with a lot of tongue. It's amazing—and he loves when she does that—but he's too eager for more, and finally he rolls them to the left and moves down his wife's body, brushing kisses across her pert nipples and her stomach. He lingers there for a brief moment before moving lower to sweep his mouth and tongue over her clit. Wants to make her lose it. Needs to see her.

“Kenny,” she breathes in response, her fingers finding the back of his hair. He moans against her as he works her over, moans and licks and sucks until her thighs are trembling and her breath comes fast and harsh in her throat.

“Get me there,” Cynthia whispers, and to his left there's a high-pitched yelp—sounds like Trudy appreciates the show—and the thought of her watching them while touching herself turns him on even more, makes him more insistent. With a cry, Cyn bucks her hips up against him, body clenched in orgasm. He guides her through it, touches becoming light and gentle, and when he pulls away, he sees Trude slumped in a sitting position to his left, staring at them with heavy-lidded eyes and a satisfied grin, as if she just came her brains out.

He's still rubbing against the mattress, needing relief, and when Trudy notices this, she crawls closer and urges him onto all fours, taking him in her hand and stroking him fast and wet, her body pressed against his left side as she murmurs the dirtiest words into his ear. He's completely at her mercy, barely able to hold himself upright, oh fuck oh shit oh god —and when he comes it lasts a long time, it absolutely wrecks him. Ken ends up slumped over on the bed, shaking, curled against the outside of Cynthia's left leg with his head pillowed against her upper thigh. Trudy's lying against his back while her fingertips trace through the damp hair at the nape of his neck.

“Sheesh,” he hisses out, eyes closed, trying to catch his breath. “That was fun.”

Cyn lets out a heavy sigh that says she agrees. He can feel Trudy's cheek resting against the back of his left shoulder, her breath tickling his still-damp skin every time she exhales.

“I feel like a weight's been lifted,” is all she says after several minutes, very quiet. Like she's trying not to cry.

He can't physically reassure her from this position, not without moving, anyway. So he blinks open his eyes, and decides to make her smile by making a stupid joke. Last thing she had to do was keep him from toppling over, after all. “Thought you said I was in good shape, huh?”

“Oh, jeez. Don't mind him, sweetie. He's gone loopy.” Cynthia reaches out and flicks him on the forehead. It doesn't hurt, just makes him grin like an idiot.

“We're lucky you're here,” he offers instead, with a happy sigh. He guesses Trude's forgiven him when he feels her lips brush over the side of his neck.

**

What surprises him is how much the routine doesn't change in the end. It's still coffee in a stupor on weekdays and Trudy making Tammy's breakfast and him and Cyn rushing around like idiots to catch the subway and get to work on time.

One thing changes a little.

Before he leaves for the day, Ken stoops down to the playpen to ruffle Tammy's blonde hair in a goodbye. It's pretty shaggy. She's gonna have to get it cut soon. “Be good, Tammy-bear.”

As he moves toward the kitchen, he exchanges a quick kiss with Cynthia, usually as she's half-dressed and hurrying back toward the bedroom. She's always looking for one last piece of jewelry, or a lost high heel, or some paperwork she's misplaced from the night before. He always calls out after her, like he's not gonna end up waiting around by the front door with his briefcase in hand.

“Bye, honey!”

It's a dumb joke, but it still makes him chuckle as he walks into the kitchen. Here, Trude's usually rinsing dishes or wiping down a counter or putting leftovers into the fridge.

“Bye, mama,” he says, kissing her. “Behave.”

She turns amused eyes on him, mouth curling into a sunny smile. “You know I always do.”