It's the wrong game with the wrong chips
Though your lips are tempting they're the wrong lips
They're not his lips but they're such tempting lips
That if some night you're free
It's alright, it's alright with me
The nausea boiled in John's stomach and he thought he might throw up. He had taken a step inside Marlena's bedroom before he had realized that Marlena was not asleep, and she was not alone. The sight that had greeted him had been almost incomprehensible to him. He loved Marlena more than it was fair or should be possible to love someone. And he had thought he had known her better than anyone could. But in that darkened room, she was making love to another man, and in that one moment, John felt everything he cared about slip away from him.
He stood stunned for several moments, half hidden from Marlena and Q's view by the wall, as his bewildered mind tried to comprehend what was happening. He was staring at them, his mind spinning, his world disintegrating around him but he barely saw them. It was as though he was looking through a strangers eyes at two people he barely knew. He saw them move in a slow sensual rhythm, their hands linked as they stared at each other. Neither of them seemed aware that he were there. It were almost as if he were as invisible, as *nothing* as he felt.
Marlena raised their paired hands, smiling at the way Eugene's engulfed hers. Using them as resistance, she altered her movements slightly. Q gazed at her radiant face, her damp bangs plastered to her skin, her lips red and crushed by all the passionate kisses.
"My God you are so beautiful," he murmered in awe. "I want to give you everything I possibly can. I want to make *every* experience you have more incredible than you've ever imagined."
"Mmmm....well, you're already doing a pretty good job," Marlena's eyes sparkled.
"Even though this time it's just us?" He was still uncertain that he had done the right thing. "You know I want this to be wondrous for you. If you want I can..."
"Sshhh..." Marlena smiled as she squeezed his hands. "You're just amazing and I feel so lucky to be here with you. Yes it was wonderful before, but now it's even better. Now it's honest, it's just you and I and how we feel about each other. And that's very special. And *very* sexy."
The small muscle in John's cheek twitched madly as he watched Marlena lean over to kiss Q. Q's hands loosened from Marlena's and buried themselves in her tousled hair as he kissed her deeply, their movements becoming intense and more passionate. John turned away and pressed his fingers to his mouth, trying to quell the bile that burnt his throat. In his worst nightmares he could have never imagined that she could do this, turn her back on everything they had meant to each other. And like this.
He grimaced as in the blackness of his mind the image of Eugene's hands on Marlena tortured him without pity. Eugene, who had once been his friend and had professed to want to help him. Who knew the truth about the baby that Kristen was carrying. And who was obviously taking advantage of Marlena's kind and trusting nature.
Part of John was tempted to march into the room and demand to know what the hell they thought they were doing with his children only feet away. But another, more rational facet knew that he had no right to do that to Marlena. After all he had put her through with Kristen, he had no right to demand a say in her life, to expect that she stay true to him. He had no rights at all, and he had only himself to blame. She had told him that their relationship was over. So, now, at last he came to a final and painful realization that she had really meant it.
The noises from the room behind him were rising, and each moan scorched his heart, feeling as though it might physically wound him. Even seeing her with Roman when he had thought she might be pregnant with his child, even that hadn't hurt as much as the need and desire in Marlena's voice as she called a name that was not his.
John thought he might scream, to drown out the distressing sounds, but with a clenched fist and a supreme effort at self-will, he instead turned and quietly closed the door. The moment the mechanism clicked into its slot, the room became, once again, deceptively silent.
With tears burning at his eyes he lurched down the stairs, fumbling for the keys in his pocket. As he pulled them out at the base of the staircase, a tiny gold strawberry tumbled from his pocket to the ground and rolled, unseen, into the corner.
Neither Marlena not Eugene heard, or saw anything of the unexpected visitor to the penthouse. Neither of them saw the door open into the darkened room. Neither of them saw John's horrified eyes as he became an unwilling voyeur to a scene that none of them had ever anticipated. And neither of them had heard the quiet click of the door as it closed, too intent on each other to know that the terrible sequence of misunderstandings was now perpetuating itself with alarming consequences.
As their lovemaking became more frenetic, Marlena wasn't terribly surprised to find herself on her back again. Q slowed his pace, moving in long, measured strokes while he mesmerized her with his eyes. Marlena returned his gaze, staring deep into the hazel eyes that reflected hers. Loosening one of her hands that had again been caught up in his, Marlena ran her fingernails lightly over the muscles in his back. Gene murmered his approval as she lifted her thighs, her feet finding their way between his knees. His free hand swept downwards and searched out the underside of her thigh, urging her to bring her legs up even further.
The change in position and pressure caused Marlena to whimper as she felt Eugene reach even deeper inside her, moving to the tempo established by Marlena's shallow breaths. She reached up and began to kiss his neck again, the kisses turning into nibbles and then bites as, little by little, she began to lose her self-control.
Pulling himself away from her, Q's mouth searched hers out, trying to drink her in, to be totally captivated by what she was doing to his body. They were both gasping for breath as Marlena finally pulled away, pressing herself to him and whispering her pleasure into his ear, over and over.
John left the building at almost a sprint. It was only moments before he was safely in his jeep, slamming the door behind him as though it would ward off the terrible visions that were pursuing him like tormenting ghouls. He began to shake as he slumped down behind the thick steering wheel, the reality of what had happened hammering at his consciousness. He was almost tempted to pinch himself. If he had dreamed about Marlena before, why couldn't this just be a dreadful nightmare?
But he knew it wasn't. Because the pain and despair were too real and too overwhelming for this to possibly be a illusion created by his own insecurities.
John clutched at the wheel before him with his hands, trying to stop the shaking that wracked his body and the devastation that bled his soul.
It was over.
As he moved, Eugene could feel Marlena's breaths moisten his ear as she continued to whisper her words of passion and lust, driving him further in his quest to bring her pleasure. His movements hastened as her excitement grew, each of them driven by the hunger of the other.
Marlena arched her back involuntarily as Q began to call her name, her fingernails digging small grooves into the skin of his back as she clung to him. Q watched her throw her head back, her face flushed and her lips parted, and felt the heaving of her chest under him as she panted. Breathing heavily himself, he closed his own eyes as he concentrated on bringing her to her orgasm.
Marlena was almost sobbing with the divine feeling as the mutual movements developed into an extraordinary climax. Eugene felt her tense beneath him and then her hips began to drive upwards, her muscles contracting as she screamed noiselessly. Her reaction was enough to deprive him of his self control and he found the pitch of his orgasm matching hers in intensity as they acquiesced to the sensations that overtook them.
John still shook as he stared out into the darkness, one hand clutching desperately at the hair at the base of his neck. He had been stunned into inaction and he could not for the life of him, move from the spot in front of Marlena's building, even though the despair was threatening to choke him.
His eyes fixed unseeingly on the street lamp in front of him, almost blinding him, but he could not feel that pain. All that was within him now was a numbing sorrow, a feeling that he had let his life slip through his open fingers to float off into the uncaring chasm of the future.
Lost. And still losing.
He shook his head, blinking tears from his tired eyes. He couldn't believe she would do that. That she would turn to Eugene Bradford. John had sensed that she had been attracted to him, but to go to bed with him so soon after she had ended *their* relationship?
He couldn't understand it. That wasn't Marlena. She had waited for him for four years after Roman had left her and John knew she had barely looked at another man during that whole time. And now she was in Eugene's bed only a few months after she had exiled John from her life. It didn't make sense. Or at least John didn't want it to make sense.
His mind turned to Eugene. Or ?Q' as he called himself. He ran quickly over the events since Q's arrival. He had made no secret of what he thought of John and his feelings for Marlena had always been obvious, at least to everyone except Marlena herself. How could he not have wanted to claim Marlena for his own, given that he had the power and the knowledge to win her in an unfair fight. And maybe that had been his intention all along.
John thumped the steering wheel in frustration. He had known the threat that Eugene presented but he had done *nothing*. Eugene had tried to encourage him to win Marlena back, he knew, but now he realized that the other man had always made the inside running. He had known what he wanted and he had obviously known how to get it. And now he had Marlena and John's family, and John had nothing but memories and regrets.
Marlena sighed as she stretched lazily, running one hand down the other arm which was extended over her head.
"Mmmmm," a small smile crossed her lips. "You really know how to show a girl a good time don't you?"
"Only if the girl is worth it," Q brushed her damp hair from her forehead and kissed it lovingly.
Marlena responded by rolling on her side and molding herself against him. She trailed her fingers lightly down his arm in thought.
"You know, Trista told me several times that you were a devastating lover," she unsuccessfully tried to cover a throaty chuckle. "I never believed her."
She felt him stiffen and looked up at his face, surprised by the troubled look.
"I'm sorry," she offered quietly, immediately regretting her words. "I'm sorry that I said that."
"Trista?" Eugene repeated in a small voice. Marlena felt her heart jump inexplicably.
"Trista. You know," she smiled waveringly, unsure of where the problem lay, "my cousin, your wife." She paused, her eyes downcast, "I'm sorry."
Q swallowed heavily.
"Why are you sorry?" he asked, not understanding.
"I know how hard Trista's death was on you." Marlena looked up expecting to see the remnants of grief in Eugene's eyes. Instead all she saw was more confusion.
"Gene?" she asked, taking his hand in hers. "What's wrong?"
The tinny sound of the telephone squealing roused Kristen out of her dream. She cursed as the baby began to kick again, wakened it seemed, by her movements.
"Cut it out you brat," she hissed as she rolled over, her eyes bleary with clinging sleep. She wasn't sleeping well these days, the last thing she needed was to be woken this early in the morning.
She peered at the clock and made out that it was close to five in the morning. Angrily, she snatched up the portable and fell back into her pillows.
"What!?" she snapped crabbily as the baby continued it's soccer match inside her belly.
"What the hell do you think you're doing calling at this time of the morning?" Kristen muttered irritably.
"I have news Krissie. About John." Peter's tone piqued Kristen's interest.
"And that would be....?"
"Apparently he went driving tonight. In the middle of the night." Peter's cryptic response did nothing to improve Kristen's mood, but she played along.
"And where did he drive to Peter?" she asked as pleasantly as she could.
"Well it would seem that he ended up at Marlena's." Peter told her.
"He did *what*?" Kristen was suddenly panicked. What if Marlena had confronted him with what she had seen and he had told her the truth.
"It's okay Krissy," Peter attempted to soothe her fears. "He didn't stay for long. Apparently he went into the building and came out about ten or fifteen minutes later. And he wasn't exactly happy when he did."
"Is that right?" Kristen raised her eyebrows. Unfortunately she had no way of knowing what went on in Marlena's penthouse apartment. But the man Peter had trailing John obviously had seen enough to hint that whatever had gone on, it had upset John.
"How exactly unhappy was he?"
"Exactly *very* unhappy." Kristen could hear the smile in Peter's voice. She knew he wanted John to suffer for what he had done to her and their family. "My informant tells me that whatever upset John has to be pretty major. I'd say Kristen, that you may yet have won the battle."
"Or even the war." Kristen murmered. She was thoughtful for a moment and then the baby decided that it was time to get in some goal practice with her diaphragm. "Thanks Peter, I'd better go now, I'll call you later on okay?"
Kristen wound up the conversation quickly and then pressed the power button on the portable. A smile brightened her face as she considered this latest twist. Now all she had to do was make it work for her.
Turning on the bedroom light, she yawned as she crossed the room. She may as well get up and have a shower now. This baby seemed to consider it's God-given task to keep her awake twenty-four hours a day and she couldn't see this morning being any different.
The two darkened figures stood half hidden by the bushes as they looked up. The sun would be rising soon. The light came on in an upstairs room, and the figure of a woman passed the curtained window. One of the figures started towards the house. The second man put his hand on the shoulder of the first, stilling him.
"Not yet." He censured the first. "You must be patient if you want this to succeed." The shoulder relaxed under his touch. "Good, good. Now we have work to do."
Without a sound the pair left the garden to the awakening birds.
"Marlena," Gene whispered painfully, "I don't remember Trista."
"You don't remember?" Marlena was confused for a moment until she remembered his arrival in Salem at the end of the summer. She brushed the hair out of her face and pressed her lips together for a moment. "Gene, how much do you remember about your time in Salem?"
Q looked at her, a slightly ashamed expression flitting across his face.
"Not much actually." He admitted. "Oh I remember places and odd people since I have met them again, but to be quite honest I can't remember a whole lot about my life here." He sighed and rolled onto his back, studying the ceiling to avoid Marlena's inquisitive eyes. "It was a long time ago for me Marlena. And often memories are just subsumed by the Continuum, supposedly in the need for stability. I guess it happened and a learnt my lessons, I just didn't need to remember *how* I learnt my lessons."
"But you remembered me," Marlena propped her head on her elbow.
"Yes," Q smiled, "I certainly did, though if you remember, I didn't actually remember you when I arrived in town."
"And I thought you were crazy," Marlena had the grace to blush as she laughed. "But I don't understand why you remembered me so fast but you barely remember anything else." She paused. "What about Calliope?"
"Not what, who." Marlena told him softly. "Calliope Jones. Your third wife."
"My *third* wife?" Eugene repeated, more than a little surprised.
"Actually, your fourth if you count our marriage," Marlena laughed as she ran her hand over his chest. "But then I guess we can't really count that because I was still married to Roman."
"Hmmm," Q began to play his fingers through her hair. "I remember *that*. And I remember Roman. I remember Roman because he had what I wanted."
"What was that?" Marlena whispered, not sure if she wanted to hear the answer.
Q took a deep breath and then turned away again. "I couldn't forget you Marlena, no matter how hard I tried. It was centuries later and I could still see your face in my dreams. I'd think I'd almost forgotten and then something would remind me. And it could be the tiniest of things, a word, a voice...." he smiled ruefully. "I suppose that I really didn't want to forget. Otherwise I would have gotten as far as I could from humans altogether."
"Oh Gene." Marlena sighed, not knowing what to say to his revelations.
"Hey," Gene moved onto his side so that he was facing her, "no regrets here. Don't you worry your pretty little head about it."
"No." Q put his finger to her lips, silencing any protestations of guilt that she might be about to come forth with. "Whatever happened, it happened. No point in getting worked up over it. There was never anything either of us could have done." He drew his finger over her chin and down her throat and then placed a delicate kiss on her lips, eliciting a slight shiver from Marlena. "Being your friend was enough for me."
He drew the blanket over their cooling bodies as Marlena snuggled closer.
"You've been a wonderful friend," she murmered. "I don't know if I could ever thank you for all you've done for me."
"You don't have to thank me," Gene told her. Then he looked down with a smile. "On second thoughts, you *can* thank me if you like. How about a kiss?"
John felt the tears dripping down his cheeks before he even knew he was crying. He had been trying so hard to keep it in, but it was too overwhelming. All he could think was that he had lost Marlena forever, and it was all his fault.
It had only been several months ago that he had made love to Marlena, in the same bed she was now sharing with Eugene. It had been him that she had smiled at with that intimate twinkle in her eyes, him that she had laughed with...his lips that she had kissed. And it had been his name that she had called so passionately when they had made love.
The scene in the penthouse came flooding back to him, even as he tried to shut it out of his mind. It seemed, infuriatingly that although he had hardly been seeing it at the time, his mind had seemed to meticulously store away ever detail. He could see her tousled hair, the way her body moved slowly and sensuously and he could hear her voice. He could hear the passion as she cried out and he couldn't help but compare it to her reaction to his lovemaking.
She had always been vocal in her enjoyment of their bedtime activities, but for the life of him, John couldn't recall her sounding like she had with Q. Like he really was giving her the most incredible experience of her life, and she was loving every moment of it. John, mired deep in his suffering, wondered how he could ever compete with that.
As he sat, stranded in front of Marlena's building, his mind worked in circles, wondering where he had gone wrong, what it was he had done that had finally compelled Marlena to give up on him. His sobs felt as though they were choking him as his thoughts became more convoluted and distorted, his mind making the defensive leap from guilt to blame with almost no effort.
He looked up at Marlena's building as he wiped away his tears and wondered exactly why it was that she had chosen to sleep with Eugene Bradford, given the fact that John had felt he had been making headway with her last time they had met. He couldn't understand why she would give off those signals, to encourage him if she had felt there was no chance. Unless....
He shook his head. Marlena wouldn't do that. Surely.
But still his mind disfigured the truth, trying to find reasons where there were none and it was not long before the grief that John was feeling metamorphosed into the anger of the wronged. And as the anger took over in defense, John slowly lost all sense of proportion, the hurt causing him to lash out at the one person who he should have known would never intentionally cause him any pain.
In his enraged despair, John began to wonder if this wasn't some sort of revenge on Marlena's behalf. Retribution, or payback for all the pain he had cause her with Kristen. Wouldn't it just be so easy for her to invite Eugene into her bed, knowing how much it would kill John to find out that he had been replaced so easily and so fast. She could have even been stringing him along, all this time, pretending to be swayed by his gifts and his protestations of love, giving him hope and then snatching it away when he was so close that he could feel her in his arms.
The conversation that he had overheard up in the penthouse came back to haunt him at that moment. It was wonderful before, but now it's even better. This was obviously not the first time they had made love. How long had it been going on? How long had they been making a fool of him?
John thumped the heels of his palms on the steering wheel once again, this time in anger, wondering how he could have been so stupid as to not see what was going on in front of his very eyes. With thin lips, he snatched up the keys from where they lay sprawled on the passengers seat and started up the jeep.
"Mmmmm, you are so incredible," Marlena sighed as she laid in Q's arms. "I don't think I remember ever feeling so totally glorious."
"I'm glad," Q kissed her forehead through the damp blonde hair. "You know I'd do anything for you."
"What did I ever do to deserve you?" Marlena asked with a little amusement.
"Beats me." Q chuckled.
Marlena pulled the blanket to her as she half sat up, propped up by pillows.
"Well, whatever it is, I'm glad." Marlena smiled to herself as she watched her fingers move over Eugene's shoulder and chest. "There is obviously much more to you than meets the eye Mr. Bradford, and I'm not talking about this totally unreal talent you have." Her eyes softened her smile. "You're a good man Gene. Don't ever forget that." She lay back down on the bed next to him as he looked at her thoughtfully.
"What I still don't understand," Q said as he rolled onto his back, "is why you suddenly decided this was a good idea. Let's be honest sweetheart, you never looked at me twice before. What makes now so different?" He turned his head to the side to look at her. "Was it merely circumstance? Was it just that I was here at the right time?"
"No!" Marlena exclaimed immediately. "No, it's not like that."
As she paused to collect her thoughts, Q softly ran his finger down her cheek.
"I'm not accusing you of anything Marlena, and I'm certainly not complaining," he smiled slightly, "it's just that I am aware that you don't *love* me, at least not in the way you love John." He felt her jump slightly at the mention of the name and his anger at John flared again momentarily.
Marlena took a deep breath and contemplated her fingernails.
"I do love you Gene," she said huskily, "but I guess you are right. It is different to the way I loved John. But then," she sighed, "all my love for John seems to have done is to cause myself and everyone else pain. There comes a time when you have to realize that the only thing to do is to let go and move on. As trite as it sounds."
"Are you sure that what you're doing is moving on?" Q asked uneasily. "Have you really thought it through?"
"I don't see what there is to think through," Marlena said almost airily. "And if you're suggesting this is some sort of revenge, you couldn't be further from the truth." She tucked her arm under the pillow as she tried to explain her feelings to her new lover.
"It's not that I don't love John anymore Gene, I know that you wouldn't believe me if I said otherwise. I've just had my life on hold for him for such a long time now that I suppose I couldn't see anything else in my future. But I think that maybe you made me realize over the last few months that I don't have to deny myself a happy future." She brushed her hair out of her eyes as she continued as dispassionately as possible. "I always thought the strength of our love would get John and I through anything. But it turns out that love isn't as strong as I thought it was. And I can't waste the rest of my life pining away after a man when I am obviously not his first priority. I'm worth more that that."
Q looked at her, his hazel eyes compassionate. He could see the turmoil behind the facade she built, even if she was denying it to herself.
"Then isn't this too soon?" He shook his head, trying to find the right words. "I don't know what happened tonight with John and I'm not going to pry, but I'm just afraid that you aren't thinking about the consequences here and that you're going to get hurt."
"Or you are." Marlena added softly.
"The thought had crossed my mind," Q admitted.
Marlena looked down for a moment, her expression thoughtful.
"Eugene, neither of us can predict what is going to happen here. There is a chance that one or both of us will be hurt, but if you're willing to take that chance, then so am I." Her earnest look dissolved into a smile, and she ran her finger down his arm. "I do care about you a lot Gene. I couldn't do this if I didn't. The circumstances certainly have something to do with it, but you're not just someone I chose to sleep with to forget my troubles. You're a wonderful person, you make me laugh, you're there for me when I cry and you're wonderful with the children." Her smile grew. "And I think you're very sexy."
"Regular little mutual admiration society we have happening here," Q said ironically.
"It's the truth." Marlena's shoulders formed a delicate shrug. "I want to get on with my life. I've made mistakes and now I realize that I can't go back and change them. And I can't turn back time and make John into the man he once was. So now it's me and if you really want me and you're willing to give this a try, it's you too. I think we both know that I can't commit to a long-term relationship right away, but we can see where it goes from here. Of course," she added with a cheeky smile, "it's a fait accompli really, because we're here and it's done. No going back now."
Q wanted nothing more than to tell her that he wasn't just willing to give this a try, but that he loved her hopelessly and he would go to the ends of the universe and back if she wanted him to, but he couldn't. Instead he gently cupped her cheek in his palm and kissed her.
"Anything you want," he whispered with a broad smile, tracing the outline of her lips with his index finger.
"Anything?" Marlena whispered back, suddenly finding herself tingling again under his gaze.
"Then make love to me again," she demanded before she caught his lips up with hers.
John thrust his key angrily into the lock of the loft door and pounded his fist on the metal in frustration as it refused to open. Finally, with a deep breath, he calmed himself enough to unlock and slide open the heavy door.
Pulling it closed behind him, John dropped his keys on the bench and went to the window. Neither the cobalt blue of the early dawn sky, nor the sweet notes from the birds could soothe his pain. He felt as if he were raw, his emotions red and blistered but unable to be shielded from the pain.
He walked wearily to the couch and fell into the softness it offered him. He had no idea what to do next. With no warning, he had been robbed of his reason for getting up in the morning and he was lost. What Stefano had always tried to do, they had finally done to themselves.
Marlena and Eugene made love again, this time slowly and tenderly, taking the time to explore each other, to laugh, to kiss and to love. Finally when it was over, and they lay contented and sated in each other's arms, Marlena realized that the sun was rising. Q suggested that maybe they should try and get some sleep, knowing that neither of them would be able to help it very shortly.
"Oh Gene," Marlena couldn't help but yawn, "what about the children?"
"Let me take care of that," Q noiselessly brushed his thumb past his middle finger. "There now," he smiled, "they won't wake up until we do."
"Mmmmm... what a wonderful thought." Marlena leaned over Q to set her alarm clock. She knew she couldn't sleep all day, as much as she wanted to. She settled down into Q's arms and he pulled the comforter over them.
It was within moments that Q felt Marlena relax against him, her breaths becoming shallow and regular. Wrapping his arm around her, he fell asleep with a smile on his face.
John rocked his head back and looked at the ceiling, the breaths searing his lungs as the tears stung his tired, bloodshot eyes. As he lowered his head again to wipe his face, the fireplace caught his eye. Pushing himself up from the couch, John staggered to the mantlepiece and picked up a framed picture of Marlena.
His despair as he stared at it was suddenly overcome with a flash of rage as he remembered what he had seen and heard. He didn't even know what he was doing as he threw the picture at the wall, the glass shattering and littering the floor with brilliant shards.
Not caring for the moment what happened, John snatched the picture out of the smashed wooden frame. Tears falling from his eyes so fast that they blinded him, his fingers closed around the picture, his knuckles whitening as the image crumpled under the unrelenting pressure.
Unable to control his pain, the anger protecting him momentarily from the wretchedness that he would soon feel , John tore at the picture. Marlena's beautiful face ripped apart as the paper split under his hands.
It was a moment before he realized what he had done as he looked down at his achievement in shock. Shaking uncontrollably, John sank to the floor, his sobbing frantic, as he desperately tried to put the pieces of the tattered picture back together.
But it was beyond repair.
copyright © 1999-2003 by rjy