Clean

Shay Sheridan

For the "Curtain" challenge


The water will feel good. Damn good, after the day he's had, another featureless, pointless day, like all the others since he's been back, just a little more strenuous than most, strenuous from chasing a shithead drug dealer nine blocks at a run, sliding into a wall, then sweating through a long interrogation in an airless room. He can smell himself by the time he gets home, so he keeps walking, keeps dropping bits of himself -- jacket, gun, shoulder holster, boot gun, shirt, pants, shoes, socks, underwear -- as he limps his weary way to the bathroom. He'd been trying to keep his place neat for a while there, but it's not like it matters now. Not like anyone will see the trail he's laying from the front door to the shower. Not like he's got someone hunting him. Not like anyone else is ever there.

He bats his way through the shower curtain, gropes for knobs, and ahhhh, finally, water. Hot, hot water.

Hot. But strange how for a second it reminds him of a waterfall, of a specific waterfall, of standing naked in that waterfall, of feeling the curtain of water so cold he thought he'd freeze his nuts off, but he didn't, because somehow the body pressed against him, broad and solid, kept him warm in the cold spray. He stops soaping for a moment and holds still, remembering, shivering.

The room blurs. The shower curtain used to be transparent plastic, but it's old, and parts of it are a little mildewed, and most of it is foggy with steam and slick with the accumulated soap scum of many years, and it's hard to see more than vague shapes through it. He thinks that's why things suddenly look blurry. He turns his wet eyes to the spray, closes them, hoping that when he opens them again the blur will be gone, that the empty feeling will have washed away with the city grime. The city is so dirty. He never used to notice it, before.

Inside his cloud of steam he feels a chill, detects the slightest flutter of the curtain as it moves to press against his slick body, like the feel of the slickness between them as they moved against each other for the first time, while the wind outside played its low continuo against the duet of groans and whispers inside the tent.

No. He won't. He won't let himself go there. He braces his hands against the wall, bows his head and lets the water beat down on his neck and on his head, hoping it will beat some sense into him, drive away these thoughts, these memories of the four months, three weeks and two days before things fell apart. Maybe the sound of it beating against his skull will fill his head with white noise and he won't have to think at all.

Another breeze ruffles the curtain, and gooseflesh rises from a distinct chill in the room, too much, too like the chill that slowly settled between them. He looks up from tile he's been studying, gray soap scum-covered tile that reminds him of the overcast sky just before that last snowfall, that snowfall that came at the end of four months, three weeks and two days, the end of the trail, the end of everything.

The curtain stirs again, and his head comes up. Was there a noise? He breathes in sharply because the bathroom door is opening. His heart kicks into overdrive, and the drumming of water is suddenly the theme from Psycho because he's naked and defenseless and in the shower and he's not alone --

Pressed back against the wet tile, unable to move, unable to make a noise, he watches a blurry figure step into the room, stop outside the shower curtain. He can barely breathe now, what with the steam and the noise in his head and the pounding of his heart. He watches, his vision narrowed to the hand slowly pulling back the curtain, and someone looks at him, studies him, all wet and shivering and frozen in shock. He understands with one part of his overloaded brain that he must look like a drowned rat, and he is drowned, he has been drowned, but now maybe air will fill his lungs again, because someone is stepping into the shower fully clothed, and someone is running familiar hands down his shaking shoulders and someone is pulling him in to an embrace until the wet red wool is plastered against his naked body. The wool is scratchy and the loved voice is scratchy, too, and it's whispering over and over I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry --

Water streams down his face and finally washes him clean.


redchance @ aol.com
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