Sunday, October 6, 2013

Epilogue 2: Risk of Serious Injury

"Lookin' good, Heather," Coby greets his sister with a kiss on the cheek as the family gathers around to greet him.

"Hey, squirt," he says, ruffling Dulce's hair, "Do you remember me?" The last time Coby had been back to L.A. for a visit, his youngest niece had still been in diapers, and Laurel had still been in grade school. Both girls have grown so much, and Heather very obviously has another on the way.

"Did you bring us anything, uncle Coby?" Dulce asks, jumping with excitement.

"So you do remember me," Coby laughs.

He doesn't have much time to catch up with Heather and Ulises before Rainier comes to pick him for his fitting.

"I dropped Portia off at the designer's before coming to get you," Rainier explains as they drive out to west side, "She's a big name in the fashion industry, working mostly out of New York, but she's recently decided to set up shop in L.A. She hasn't actually got an office space yet, but she's and old friend so she's agreeing to see us in her apartment," he finishes as they pull up to a high rise in Century City.

They take the elevator up to he penthouse and find Portia inside, modeling her gown for the designer.

"That looks perfect," Rainier opines, watching his fiancee turn and roll her shoulder.

"It is," Portia agrees, "Now we just need to get your best man fitted." She cast s a glance and a smile at Coby's direction.

"That's what I'm here for," Coby answers, not at all looking forward to being suited up, but resigned to doing what he has to for Rainier, who, besides his sister, is the one person he's kept in touch with since leaving L.A.

"I went ahead and got started on your tux, going by what I remembered about your size," the designer says, turning toward Coby while Portia and Rainier go off to change her out of her gown, "I can make any adjustments from there."

Coby stands in dumbfounded amazement. He recognized her, of course, as soon as he saw her face, heard her voice, but his head doubts what his eyes are telling him. She's changed, so much, but she's as beautiful as she was when she was his. Maybe even more beautiful, he thinks, watching the sweeping curl of her hair brush across her shoulder as her head moves. He stands, mesmerized, watching those lips he used to love to kiss, her eyes sparkling as she smiles. It's her, but he can't believe she's real, that this woman is what his Ti has grown up into.

"Rainier didn't tell you it was me, did he?" Stina surmises from Coby's bewildered expression, "He's such an ass sometimes." A sharp laugh coming from the dressing room, indicating that Rainier heard her comment and is thoroughly enjoying his little surprise. "Go try on your tux; it's on a hanger in the dressing room," Stina says with a smile, touching his shoulder, "We can catch up later, okay?"

Coby goes into the dressing room as Portia and Rainier come out, dons his tux and rejoins the group out in the mess of Stina's hastily set up home/office.

"You're a little broader in the shoulders than I remember," Stina observes, "So your jacket is a bit tight. But otherwise, it's a good fit. Just few adjustments and it will be good to go."

"I haven't changed much," Coby says hoarsely, the first words he's managed to get out since seeing her.  It's not like he's spent the last five years pining over her. He'd been too busy for that. But being back here, now, seeing her again, seeing how far out of his league she'd gone, it's like being punched in the gut, and he's left breathless, unable to speak.

"You're going to make him cut his hair before the wedding, aren't you?" Portia asks her fiancé in a low whisper.

"If I have to hold him down and cut it myself, yes," Rainier promises.

"I'd prefer you get a professional to do it," Portia laughs.

"Consider it done, my love," Rainier says softly, then turns toward Coby and Stina, "Why don't we all go out for a drink when we're done here?" he suggests, "We all have a lot of catching up to do."

Stina changes into something more appropriate for clubbing in Hollywood, while Coby gets out of the uncomfortable tux, and then the foursome head out together to the Cobra room for a few drinks. Most of the 'catching up' they do centers around Rainier and Portia's wedding plans. Coby remembers how freaked out Heather was in the weeks before her wedding, and she wasn't having anything anywhere as huge and formal as Rainier and his socialite fiancée are planning. If he ever gets married, he'll do it on the beach, no tux, no huge ceremony, just himself and his bride and a few close friends.

Rainier goes on about the upcoming rehearsal for the wedding, and Coby's part in it, but Coby has drifted off into his own inner world. He'd never put any real thought into getting married, but watching the tender glances Rainier and Portia share as they chatter on about their plans, seeing that intimacy, that closeness, while sitting so close to her, the only girl he'd ever really loved, fills him with an aching kind of longing. 

If he reached out for her hand, wrapped his arm around her shoulder, could it be like it was before? They had such a strong connection, despite their much had changed, but nothing, not even time, could break that bond. But as much as he wants to reach out and touch her, his arm stays at his side, his hands knit together in front of him, unwilling to try and be rejected. He wants to believe that somewhere inside her, she's still his girl, but it's been so long with no contact, and she's changed so much and lives in such a different world than his.

As soon as Coby excuses himself and heads for the restroom, Rainier takes Stina aside, "I need you to do me a favor," he says.

"What, more than slaving over tuxes ad gowns for your entire wedding party?" Stina laughs.

"I need you to make sure Coby gets a decent haircut before the wedding."

"I think you're overestimating the amount of sway I have over him," Stina says with a chuckle, "I haven't even heard from him in the past five years. He's not going to get a haircut just because I tell him to."

"Au contraire, you're the one underestimating yourself; you still have him as wrapped around your little finger as ever. He'd do anything you asked of him...and I'm asking you to get him to a hairdresser."

"Portia and I are going to head home now," Rainier says as Coby rejoins there group, "I'll leave you with Stina, I'm sure she won't mind giving you a ride home. You two must have a lot to catch up on." He takes Portia's hand and lead her out of the club before anyone can protest his plans for them.

"Are you playing matchmaker?" Portia laughs breathlessly as Rainier sweeps her up in his arms outside the club, "That's so sweet."

"Me? Non, those two are OTP. I'm merely facilitating Fate's plans for them."

"Let's go," she says, taking him by the arm and leading him to her car.

But she doesn't take him back to Heather's place; instead, they go back up to her apartment, where she brews a pot of coffee.

"So, you're living your dream," Coby says, sitting on the floor, leaning back against the sofa.

"I am," Stina agrees, setting her coffee cup down by her feet as she sits beside him, "That internship in Paris really kicked me into gear. And now I've made a name for myself, and I've got a lot of celebrity clients. So with the Oscars coming up, I've decided to open up shop back here in L.A."

"So, you'll be in town permanently?"

"Well, for part of the year. My business is still mostly based in New York, so I'll be bi-coastal. But, I'll be honest, I've missed L.A. You were right about that."

"Me? About what?"

"Do you remember that night, you took me babysitting with you, at your sister's place? We watched the stars together and you told me that I was sparkly and bubbly, and very L.A."

"Ah, yeah," Coby laughs, remembering. They shared their first kiss that night, "You told me to take it back." And she'd told him the kiss meant nothing, and that no one could ever know about it.

"I thought I was too cool for L.A. For everything, really," Stina says, "I was so wrong, about myself. About...a lot of things."

Stina scoots closer to his, leaning back against the sofa next to him. "I should apologize to you," she says softly.

"You don't need to do that," Coby says.

"No, I do," she insists, "I was a total cunt to you, and I know it. I even knew it then, I just didn't care how I hurt people."

"I don't know, Ti," he says gently, "I think you did care, in your own way."

"Well, I was a pretty shitty person, and a terrible girlfriend. You have to admit that."

"Yeah, being cheated on, dumped and then used for random booty calls kind of sucked," Coby agrees, "But I was just as bad."

"Not to me."

"No, not to you. You were different."

"I didn't deserve you," she says, whispering as she leans closer to him, her shoulder brushing his as she reaches a hand out to him. Her fingers brush over his bicep, her lips come so close to his, he could kiss her. She wants him to do it, it's as obvious as it was the night he first kissed her. But she pushed him away then...she wouldn't do that now, he knows. He could kiss her, and take off her clothes and make love to her right here on the floor, but much as he like to do that for her, for himself, something about the timing doesn't feel right, and he turns his face away from hers before her lips can touch his.

Surprised by his rejection, Stina's eyes sting with tears of embarrassment, but before they can fall, he's wrapped his arms around her and pulled her against his chest, resting his hand on her stomach. She remembers the day she came back to him, after she and Rainier had split, and how Coby hadn't wanted to make love to her right then. 'I just want to hold my girl,' is what he'd said then, and, nestled against his chest now, her hand stroking his arm, is a closeness that goes beyond what they would have had if they'd just given in to passion.

"Do you have anyone?" she asks, certain he doesn't, or he wouldn't be holding her like this now, but still, hesitant, afraid to hear that she may have lost her place in his life, in his heart.

"Nah," he says, "I mean, there was a girl in my bed yesterday, before I flew back here. But there's never been anyone serious. You kind of ruined me, Ti."

"I ruined you?" she laughs, exulting at the admission but trying not to show it.

"It's not like I ever compared girls to you, exactly, or sat around wishing it was you and not them. But still, I had this memory of what we had, and nothing I had with anyone else, no matter how good it was, as ever anywhere near what we were. So, I couldn't get ever serious with anyone, because it would never be like it was with you."

"It was the same for me. I mean, I used to tell myself that I was too busy for real relationships, but I could have made the time for one, if I really wanted to. But I knew it wouldn't be worth my time to try, that it wasn't going to be the real thing, so why bother? So I guess you ruined me, too."

"And now we're only good for each other," Coby says, squeezing her a little tighter.

"So tell me everything," she says, sighing a little as she nestles her head close to his neck, "Tell me about the places you've been, and the things you've seen."

So he tells about Bali, Oahu, Australia, all the places in the world he's surfed, until they both drift off to sleep on her floor.

"Mmm, sleeping next to you was always the best. You're like big teddy bear. Is it morning?" she murmurs sleepily, turning toward him as they wake together.

"It's still dark out. I think it's raining."

"So you're getting up to go surfing?" she asks, remember how he'd get up before dawn sometimes, leaving her alone in his bed to go catch his waves.

"Nah, I promised French I wouldn't risk any serious injury until after the wedding. I mean, I doubt anything would happen, but if I did break my leg or something and had to show up at his wedding on crutches, I'd never hear the end of it. So I can hang out with you, if you want."

"Hmm, I don't know, Coby," Stina laughs, "Staying with me might put you at even bigger risk of serious injury than taking on the big waves."

"You think?" Coby asks, not giving her time to respond before he attacks, tickling her mercilessly until she collapses in laughter beneath him.

And then, when tears of laughter flow from her eyes, then it's the right time for him to kiss her, to take off her clothes and make love to her right here on her floor. He takes her slow and gentle, remembering every inch of her body, inside and out, though it's been years since they've touched. Her heels dig into his buttocks as he rocks against her, moving inside her to find her sweet spot. A lot may have changed, but he still knows how to make love to her so she comes over and over again, just by getting into that exact and perfect position.

"Why don't we take this upstairs, to my bed?" she groans, rolling out from underneath him, "My back can't take much more of this."

"You have a bed?" Coby asks.

"Of course, silly," she laughs, "Did you think this was my whole apartment?"

"Well, it's big enough..."

She leads him up to her bed, falling down on to it beneath him, lifting her legs over his shoulders as he enters her again, rougher this time, because he knows what she likes, and all the ways there are to please her. 

"Damn, Coby," she sighs snuggling up next to him to get a few more hours of sleep before the morning breaks, "I don't suppose you'd be interested in a full time position as my personal sleep buddy and fuck doll?"

"I would, actually," he says, and his tone says he's not joking.

As blissed out and sleepy as she is, Stina makes the effort to lift herself up to look him in the eyes, "You're serious," she says.

"Totally serious," Coby says, "You know we aren't ever going to find anything better. So lets just accept that, we belong together."

"Even if you move back to L.A. permanently, I still have to travel  lot..." Stina says.

"Babe, we already proved we can be apart for years if we have to, but when we're together, it's like no time has passed. Wherever we have to go in the world, our home is with each other."

"Do you really think that will work?"

"Are you trying to talk me out of this?" Coby asks, "I think we can be together, Ti, we belong together. If you don't want that, just say so. "

"I do want it," Stina says, "I want you. I just don't want to end up with either of us getting hurt."

"We've already wasted enough time. I don't want to go another day without knowing you're my girl, Ti. You can still be who you are and work wherever you have to, and I can still surf, here or anywhere else. But at the end of the day, even if we aren't in the same city, I want to know you're mine, an that we're going to be together again soon."

"You are such a romantic sometimes," Stina sighs, "Okay, let's do it."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Epilogue 1: Not Even for an Hour

Even this early, before the late evening dinner rush, Eloise's is packed with celebrities, many from Bill's own label. Unlike his talent, Bill could go out into the 'real' world and remain totally incognito, but why should he, when the people here will treat him with the same obsequious respect they pay to D. Piddy and Ladonna Queen?

"Oh, is that Nico at the bar?" his wife asks in a hushed whisper, tugging at his sleeve.

The man at the bar she's gesturing towards has his back to them, and from this distance Bill would never identify him so easily. But Nico is Libby's son-in-law, so he takes her word for it.

"Nico," Bill says, slapping his hand against the guitarist's back, "I've been trying to get in touch with you. We need to talk."

"I'm having a drink," Nico mutters, "I'm not interested in talking business."

"This isn't business, it's family," Bill says, forcing a jovial tone, trying to break through Nico's gloom.

Nico presses his lips together into a tight frown and says nothing. Family...does step-father-in-law even count as family? Either way, Nico doesn't want Bill's interference. 

"We're just worried about you, Nico," Libby says, "You and Jacklyn. If the two of you could just sit down and--"

"Libby, I appreciate your concern. Really, I do," Nico turns toward his mother-in-law with a weary sigh, "But now isn't the time."

"You have a daughter to think about," Bill says.

Nico slumps over his drink,  "I think about her all the time."

"Hang on, I have to take this," Rainier says, pulling his buzzing phone out of his pocket, stopping in front of the restaurant's doors.

"You promised, no business," Portia admonishes, laughing.

"It's my best man," Rainier explains.

"You better be calling me to tell me your plane just landed and you'll be on time for fitting tomorrow."

"No, brah, I'm still in Sydney. I missed my flight. But, no worries, I got another one, and I'll be there tomorrow. Just calling to let you know."

"If you miss this flight, I'm coming to get you myself," Rainier warns before he hangs up.

"Maybe the stoner best man wasn't the best idea," Portia suggests, "Are you going to be able to count on him?"

"Coby will be there," Rainier promises, taking Portia's hand and leading her into the restaurant, "But I may have to reschedule the fitting for his tux tomorrow to a later time."

"Couples go through these things," Bill says, trying to be reassuring. But knowing what Libby had gone through with her first husband, Jacklyn's father, and his own marital problems with Mercedes, he can't help but feel his words are hollow. Couples go through things that ruin them, destroying their families in the process. And from where he's sitting, that looks like what Jacklyn and Nico are going through now, and their mess is dragging their career down with them.

Their conversation is interrupted by the approach of Rainier and Portia. Bill and Libby put smiles on their faces as they greet his daughter and her fiance.

"The wedding is so close now," Libby enthuses as the couple joins them at the table,  "You must be so excited, both of you."

"And stressed out," Bill adds with a laugh and a knowing smile at his future son-in-law.

"I am excited," Portia agrees, "But I'm so worried all the time, that something will be off, that I've forgotten some crucial thing..."

"Everything will be perfect," Rainier reassures her, taking her hand.

"It had better be perfect," Bill quips, "It's certainly costing me enough."

"Are you thinking of buying  house?" Libby asks, "Or are you planning to stay in your condo in Santa Monica."

"We do want to move into something bigger," Rainier answers, "But we aren't looking at houses until we get back from our honeymoon."

"Rainier! Mon Dieu, is that you?" a young man with a French accent stops in front of Portia and Rainier as they are leaving the restaurant.

"Maurice," Rainier greets the man with a kiss on the cheek, "It's been years. Comment vas tu?"

"Bien, bien," Maurice answers, "And you? You are looking well."

"Portia, this is Maurice Gauthier, an old friend of mine from Brussels. Maurice, this is my fiancee, Portia," Rainer introduces. 

"Ah, so lovely. But you always had a taste for the best," Maurice says with an ingratiating smile, taking Portia's hand and kissing her fingers.

"I'm Nick," Maurice's forgotten boyfriend introduces himself.

The couples exchange pleasantries, and Rainier and Maurice make empty promises to keep in touch, then they part and go their separate ways.

"Maurice was your lover, once?" Portia says, not quite a question, as she throws her legs over Rainier's lap.

"In college, yes," Rainier answers.

"I could tell," Portia says with a nod.

"Are you going to miss it?" she asks in a quiet voice. 

Rainier cocks his head to one side, not getting what she's asking.

"Being with men," she clarifies.

"I wouldn't be getting married if I had any doubts about us, chèr," Rainier answers, stroking her leg with one hand while the other glides over the small of her back, "You are everything I've ever wanted, and I won't be missing anyone or anything."

"I feel the same," Portia says with a smile, sitting up to lean close to him, her lips just inches from his own, "But, I am serious, Rainier. I don't want to put you in a position where you have to deny what you are..."

"Ah," Rainier says, getting it now, "I'm not denying what I am, my love. I will always be attracted to men as I am to women. But I'm marrying you, and that means something. Cheating on you with a man would be just as wrong as cheating on you with woman."

"I wouldn't want you to cheat on me," Portia says, "But I'd be open to sharing."

Rainier laughs at her suggestion, "You know that I'm far too selfish to share my toys, love."

"Technically, it would be me sharing my toy," Portia purrs, "And I'm fine with that as long as I get to play, too, and they to coms home with me after the play date."

"You're getting turned on by the thought of watching me screw another guy," Rainier observes.

"Well, yeah," Portia says, running her tongue over her teeth suggestively, "So hot."

Rainier laughs, and then sweeps her down onto the couch, "You know I would do almost anything for you," he murmurs, all the joking gone from his voice, "But what we have is too special to me to let anyone else in on it. Not even for one night. Not even for an hour. You are mine, and I am yours; we don't need anyone else."

Portia slides down onto her knees on the floor in front of him, her lips meeting his in a hungry kiss. "I've wanted you for so long," he whispers in her ear, "There is no one else for me."

Her fantasy of the moment gives way to his devotion, "I don't want to see you with anyone else," she says, purring with arousal, "I want all of you for myself."

She tugs his shirt over his head, and leans forward to let her tongue play over his chest.

Rainier grasps her shoulders, "Let's go upstairs," he suggests.

"Let's get your pants off," Portia counters.

Free of his clothes, Rainier eases back against the couch, enjoying the play of her tongue on his thighs, his stomach as she teases him with kisses before finally taking him into her mouth. "Portia, mon amour," he murmurs, his fingers in her hair moving in rhythm with her.

She takes him to the point of ecstasy, pulling back just before he comes, making him wait. She dances a little as she undresses in front of him, but she's too aroused to tease him for long. "I love you," she sighs, her thighs straddled around him, holding tight to him as she slides herself down onto him, giving him what he wants above everything else, herself.