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I'm posting early because today's entry is NSFW, the first really positive NSFW episode in Wonder City Stories.

This is my birthday gift to my celebrated co-birthdayist, Hanne Blank, who is a longtime friend of both my household and of Wonder City Stories. Our birthday is Tuesday. :) Happy birthday, Hanne! I hope you enjoy this little bit of light reading.


A Beautiful Friendship

Andrea set a tumbler of amber liquid over ice next to Ira's dinner plate. He eyed it and gave her an inquiring look.

"Your favorite whiskey, on the rocks," she said, setting a similar tumbler next to her own plate and sitting down. "If we're going to go out and try to get ourselves killed tomorrow like a couple of kids, we might as well drink like we're thirty."

Ira smiled and took a sip to be polite. "It's tasty," he said. "Thank you."

Andrea eyed him for a moment. "What would you rather drink?" she said.

"No, no, this is fine," he said.

"No, I really want to know, Ira," she said, and there was a strange, appealing note in her voice.

Ira cleared his throat and picked up his knife and fork. "Ah, well, I'm just not much of a whiskey drinker. These days. I, ah, when I have the strong stuff, it's usually, well, gin."

"Oh," she said, applying herself to her chicken. "Oh."

"This is good, though," he assured her, taking another sip, and she smiled at him in a way that made him remember the pictures of her as a young woman. Andrea was a very attractive woman, really, and had always been.

After a little while of eating in companionable silence—a feeling Ira wouldn't have believed could exist between them six weeks ago—Andrea said, "So what do you think will happen tomorrow?"

Ira chewed slowly and thoughtfully, then washed it down with the whiskey that had just a little too much burn for him. "I think that things will get completely out of hand, honestly. There's been too much messing about with people's heads for things to be at all predictable."

Andrea sighed and drained her glass. "You're probably right. You usually have been about these kinds of things."

He shrugged and gave her a hesitant smile. "I can't take the credit. I asked Watson the same thing yesterday, and she talked me around to this way of thinking."

She raised her eyebrows at him. "You think people are going to die."

Ira exhaled. "Yes. But people are dying now. We can't let it go on like this. That would be…" He looked up and met her keen blue eyes across the table.

Andrea held up a hand. "I know, I know, don't Godwin yourself."

Ira flashed a grin and felt very clever. Since he'd been helping Suzanne with her online research, he knew all sorts of Internet things. "That's fine, we both knew what I was thinking."

They finished dinner, and Ira did the dishes (which consisted of rinsing them and putting them in Andrea's very nice and expensive dishwasher). When he came into the living room, she'd made them both drinks again, and his was a gin and tonic.

"Thank you," he said.

"I aim to please," Andrea said, watching him while drinking her own… whatever.

Ira sat in his usual spot on the couch, and, after a moment, Andrea came and sat next to him. She leaned her head on his shoulder. He sat very still, and felt a bit like a wild animal was sitting next to him, and he wasn't sure whether it was considering eating him or cuddling him.

He took a large, but careful, mouthful of his drink.

Andrea took his arm and put it around herself, pressing her cheek against his chest. He tightened his arm around her, and they sat for a while, listening to the distant traffic outside and the sounds of the house settling.

Finally, he said, "I'm terrified about tomorrow."

She said, "So am I."

Ira set his empty glass aside with a clink that sounded too loud. "I… there's a good chance I'll just keel over, you know. Nothing they can do for me if I do."

"Oh hell, it could happen to any of us," Andrea said, swatting his knee. "The octogenarian set isn't exactly known for being to leap tall buildings."

"Jane can still do it," Ira said.

"Jane can do anything when her brain isn't trying to be Swiss cheese," Andrea said, finishing her drink and settling back against him.

Ira looked down at her with an overwhelming feeling of fondness, and kissed the top of her head. She may never have been his wife, as far as his memory went, but the past several weeks had proved her to be as kind as anyone he'd ever known, if a little brusque at times. Her hair was very fine and silky, and he could see where it was starting to turn white at the roots rather than the silver-gray she had been for the last decade.

She looked up at him, stared into his face for a long moment, then stretched up and kissed him on the mouth.

It had been a long time since a woman had kissed him that way. Ira was pleased to discover that being out of practice didn't mean he was incapable.

Andrea pulled back after a long, long moment and said, "Can you handle it if I sit on your lap?"

"Hell, yes," he said, his voice gone husky.

Had they been thirty years younger, she probably would have squirmed into his lap. As it was, she stood up, straightened her slacks, and sat down on his lap carefully, leaning on his shoulder to manage it. Once settled, though, she put her arms around his neck and resumed kissing him.

Ira was delighted by the feel of the delicate paper-softness of Andrea's cheeks, and felt a bit bad about his five o' clock shadow, but didn't offer to go shave. She weighed little as a bird on his knees, and he pulled her in close and warm.

"We're drunk, aren't we?" Andrea whispered in his ear.

"Yeah," he said, "like a couple of kids."

They snickered together, presses their foreheads together. Since her hands had started roaming over his back and through his thin hair, he thought he'd see what the skin on her sides, under her shirt, felt like.

"Oh," she said, tugging up her blouse some more, "that feels awfully good."

Her skin was velvety. He let his hands roam up her back, exploring the bumps of her spine.

"Go ahead, you old fool," she whispered while biting his neck. "Undo it, you know you want to."

It took him a few tries to unhook her bra, which was one of those iron-clad four-hook varieties, and the damned thing kept re-hooking itself as he moved down, and they both ended up laughing themselves silly as he hissed increasingly incoherent curses at it. When he succeeded, she cackled at his triumphant silly grin and then inhaled sharply as he ran his hands up over her exposed skin.

In repayment or revenge, she unbuttoned his shirt and ran her nails down through his now-sparse chest hair. He sucked in air in surprise and responded by energetically helping her get her shirt and bra off. As he cupped the heavy softness of her breasts up from where they rested flat against her ribcage and played with her dark nipples in a bid to get her to gasp again, he thought vaguely, This is so strange. To him, this was the first time he'd ever seen her breasts; to her, this was some sort of strange end-of-the-world making-out-with-the-ex. He ran a fingertip over the scar from her lumpectomy and wondered what other scars she had. He recalled Tin Lizzie's breasts as a bit smaller than Andrea's, but not so deflated, of course. She'd only been 50-something when she went away in the Great Gulf, when she stopped existing as his wife.

He almost jumped when one of Andrea's hands slid down between them and gripped a part of him only he (and his doctor) had handled for at least twenty years. She laughed a little at his surprise that he was rising to the occasion.

"Come on, you," Andrea said. She slid off his lap and stood up, her hip and knees popping and crackling as she went.

Ira tried to get up from the couch and found that one of his feet had gone to sleep and one knee wasn't quite catching. Andrea snorted and pulled him up while clutching her blouse and bra to her chest with the other hand.

He stopped a few steps along. "I haven't got a… a condom," he said after a moment, reaching for his wallet in a futile gesture. "I should go out and get one."

Andrea turned and looked at him with a strange half-smile and a little laugh. "Ira, when was the last time you had sex with someone?"

Ira could feel his cheeks warming as he tried to remember.

Andrea took pity on him. "Anyone in the last ten years?"

He shook his head.

"I think we're okay then," she said. "It's not like I can get pregnant."

He swallowed his embarrassment as best he could and said, "But there's you and David."

Andrea put her hand over her face and laughed harder. "David wasn't really… interested in that sort of thing. Said he was too old the last five or ten years. So it's been me and my Good Vibrations investments for quite some time."

He blushed again. "Oh. Oh, well, all right then."

Andrea smiled at him, a little disbelievingly, then took one of his hands and pulled gently. "Oh, come on."

He hadn't been in Andrea's bedroom before. It smelled of powder and the perfume she occasionally used, and was bright and light. There was a quilt folded on the foot of the bed made of fabric with all sorts of superhero logos. He noticed his own at one of the folded corners.

He had a momentary flashback to the one time he'd let the Flag and the Damned Yankee talk him into going to see what the Flag called "one of his professional friends." The woman's room had smelled of powder and perfume too — very different powder and perfume — but had been warm and dimly lit. After a moment on the threshold, he'd handed her the money he'd brought, thanked her for her time, and left. He just hadn't been able to stop thinking of what Lizzie would have said.

This was a very different experience.

Andrea tossed her blouse and bra on a white wicker chair, and went to the queen-sized bed to fold down the covers on both sides. Then she kicked out of her sneakers, pushed off her slacks and underwear, and sat on the edge of the bed to take off her socks. She looked up at him and smiled. "Come on, Ira, don't stand at the door."

He crossed the threshold and tried to push down his performance anxiety while finishing the unbuttoning of his shirt. She padded over to him and helped him with the buttons.

"You still wear undershirts," she said.

"Well, yeah," he said.

"And boxers."

"I've never liked those tight-fitting things."

"I always thought boxers were sexy. I like the stripes on these."

"Whoa! Yeah! They aren't arrows pointing there though."

"Sure they are. Take 'em off and get in bed. I'm old and my feet hurt."

Ira pushed off his boxers. They both stood in the altogether, staring at each other for a long moment. She still had her curves, Ira noticed, with a smooth arc at her hips and fabulously smooth and muscular legs. Andrea smiled a little nervously and ran a hand over her belly, which had a gentle pooch and a few pale old stretch marks, and Ira put his arms around her. "You've got a really lovely body, Andrea."

She slid her arms around his waist. "You look pretty good too, Ira."

"I don't work out the way you do, though," he said. "Your work shows." Ira was acutely aware of his withered arms and legs, mentally comparing them to the young, muscular Ira she might remember. He thought of the way he'd looked while attending the Dream Party and wished Andrea could've seen it.

"Oh, you," she said, hiding her face in his shoulder. "Come on."

He turned her face up to his and kissed her. "Lead on," he murmured.

It could have been a bit of comedy with the two of them slowly clambering into bed, but Ira was pretty het up, so he just swept her off her feet and laid her back into bed. He tossed himself into bed over her, where he bounced on the impressively sprung mattress and set her cackling again. It didn't even hurt his back to do it, and he was awfully pleased with himself.

"Well, then," he said, putting his arms around her.

"Well, then?" she said, snuggling up against him. This revived the interest of certain portions of his anatomy.

"It's been a while since I did this," he said.

"It's like falling off a bicycle," she said.

"What an old joke."

"So am I. Still, this part of you isn't laughing."

"Whoop! No, not laughing at all. How about you?"

"Eee! Your hand is like ice!"

"Sorry."

"You're not sorry at all, you old rat."

"Well, maybe not."

"Oh, that feels so nice. Wait, let me get something to make that easier."

"Ah, it comes in pump containers now? That's handy for people who do this a lot."

"That's perfect. Just kee-eee-eeeep… mmmhmmm…"

"I seem to be doing something right."

"Hush."

"How does this stuff taste? Should I even try?"

"Oh! You want to… really? It doesn't taste bad…"

"Here, let's see. Mm, no, not bad, a little chemical, but…"

"Quit teasing and put your mouth to better use, you chatterbox!"

"Yes, ma'am."

Some incoherent time later:

"Oh, that was awfully nice, Ira."

"You all right? Getting your breath back okay?"

"I'm fine, dear, really. Now, what about you?"

"Oh-oh-hooooo, yes, well, woo! Whatever you'd like, really."

"Do you think you could…?"

"Well, it hasn't worked properly in at least ten years, but I could try."

"Please, that would be so nice."

"How would you like to try this? I've got tricky knees."

"My right hip isn't as flexible as I'd like."

"How about this way?"

"From… oh, oh, yes, that's nice. My hip's just fine like this."

"My knees are good too. Now if this just cooperates…"

"Oh! Feels like it's cooperating to me."

"Oh, yeah, yeah, I think it is. Oh, boy, oh, boy..."

A few minutes later, Ira was panting and sweating, his body more relaxed than it had been in years. He trembled a little, spooned with Andrea, more than a little overwhelmed and shaky. He was grateful that his chest felt okay after that exertion.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"Yeah, yeah, I think so," he said, pressing his face into the back of her shoulder and closing his eyes. "That was really wonderful, Andrea, thank you."

She patted one of his hands where it rested on her stomach. "No need to thank me, I was enjoying it too."

"Oh, speaking of which," he said, remembering his manners. He slid his hand down between her legs again.

"Ira, that's so sweet, but I don't think I can right now," she said, with a sigh. "I just don't have as much endurance as I did when I was young."

He reached down and pulled up the sheet over both of them. "All right, then, that's all right. You just let me know."

Fifteen or twenty minutes later, after he'd thought she'd dozed off, he felt her shaking in his arms, very gently. "Andrea?" he said.

"I'm all right," she said in a voice that was thick with tears.

"You don't sound all right," he said, pulling her tighter against him. "What's wrong?"

"I feel so stupid," Andrea said, rubbing her face and sounding annoyed. "I just… I owe you an apology, Ira."

"For what?" he said. He felt a little panicked, wondering if he'd done something wrong, wondering if he'd misread her.

"Because… all these years…" She inhaled on a sob, and exhaled on something like a laugh. "I'm so sorry, Ira. I thought you had forgotten me, I thought you had always remembered me a little, or were faking it, or something. But now… it took this to really convince me."

"What?" he said, feeling like he'd missed half the conversation.

"No, it's just that I finally understood." Andrea turned over in his arms to face him, and her face was wet. "I finally understood that you're not the Ira Feldstein I married. Not at all. You're a completely different man. A better man, in so many ways. I should have seen it years ago. I did see it years ago, and I didn't want to acknowledge it."

"Oh," he said, wondering what exactly had given her this epiphany.

"And I just realized," Andrea said, tucking her face in against his neck, "that the man I married is gone, has been gone for thirty years, and I never got a chance to say goodbye. And I feel stupid, because I divorced him and shouldn't be feeling like this about him."

"No," Ira said, pulling her closer and stroking her back. He was thinking of Lizzie, of course. "No, I completely understand." He'd always thought the timeline had been altered to remove her from reality, but he didn't understand how the historical Ira Feldstein could have been so different from him. Had he actually been moved to a different world, one that was incredibly similar to his own, but whose Ira was just a womanizing jerk? Or had it really been Lizzie who made him a better man? "It's all right," he said to Andrea. "I've been sad for losing someone who never existed for this long. It's just fine to be sad for someone who did exist."

They'd never know for sure. And it was all right, he thought, because either way, they both had people to miss.



Date: 2014-02-23 05:05 pm (UTC)
clstal: (Default)
From: [personal profile] clstal
:-) :-) :-) Aaaaaw! :-) Thank you!

Date: 2014-02-23 06:23 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
Aww, that was lovely!

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