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Semper Fidelis

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The first time he fucks her, he takes his sunglasses off but keeps his eyes shut. The second round, Starkey rolls over onto her stomach to make it easier for him. It's not like she's in any position to take it personally, and at least she doesn't have to be self-conscious about the scars. She almost laughs in the middle of it all, knowing that they're both imagining the same guy. Fucking ridiculous.

When Pike rolls off her, she leans out of bed to get a cigarette, wonders if Cole is OK. Tells herself that Pike would never have agreed to leave if he wasn't. Thirteen days since they saved his life (since Pike saved his life, since Starkey stood there and threw up and panicked) she figured Pike deserved a reward. She can't cook for shit, so she took him home to bed.

Pike is an unnervingly silent lover, which she guessed he would be, and gentle, which shouldn't be a surprise but is. It's taken her this long to realise that Pike is quiet because he has to watch himself all the time. Even now, breathing hard and staring up at the cracks in her ceiling.

"Do you think he knows?"

No need to ask who, or about what. Pike just makes one of those non-committal grunts of his in reply. Starkey frowns and pokes him in the side with her foot.

"I mean, how could anyone be that dumb?"

Starkey didn't realise about Joe Pike until thirteen days ago. It doesn't make her feel better to know that someone is in the same boat as her, just pathetic. Pike's love for Elvis Cole makes hers look like a school-yard crush; she can't even get that right.

"Does it matter?" Pike asks.

Of course it matters. She tries to picture herself in two decades, carrying a torch while Cole grows old with his Southern Belle, and she can't see it at all.

"He isn't worth it, Pike. Nobody's worth it."

His blue, blue eyes pin her down and look into her. "You know that's not true."

She stubs out her cigarette, lights another. Worth it or not, in another twenty years, Pike will still be in love. Starkey just hopes that she's not that stupid.