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Author's Chapter Notes:

Alyssa begins to feel guilty over her and Nick's affair.


Chapter 44 - You Know I'm No Good


Upstairs in bed, with my ex boy
He's in a place, but I can't get joy
Thinking on you in the final throes
This is when my buzzer goes

~ Amy Winehouse -"You Know I'm No Good"


            Alyssa pulled her black and white houndstooth jacket tighter around her body to warm herself from the chilly January wind. It was a particularly cold winter day for California although it was nothing compared to the much harsher New York winters that she was used to. The wide open space of the cemetery made it even windier and seem much colder than it actually was. She shivered as she tried to pay close attention to the funeral ceremony going on in front of her. Ian of course was being given a proper military burial which Alyssa had never witnessed before, but quickly decided that she wasn't a fan. Although it was a beautiful ceremony (well as beautiful as a funeral could be) it was long and drawn out and crowded. Alyssa would've much rather preferred a small intimate burial for only close family and friends in Kim's position.


            Poor Kim... Her eyes scanned the crowd towards where Kim was sitting up front with her parents and Ian's family. Alyssa hadn't had a chance to speak with her when she'd arrived because she had been surrounded by people offering their condolences to her, but she had made it a point to check out her appearance. The younger woman looked a little bit better since the last time she'd seen her. Someone had obviously forced her to do something with her hair and she did have a little bit of makeup on, but it looked as if it were applied half heartedly within the span of five minutes. There was still no denying though that she had been doing quite a bit of crying in the past few days. She still looked exhausted and only like a shadow of her former self, but there was definitely a slight improvement in her appearance.


            Alyssa's eyes shifted sideways towards Callie who was seated next to her. Callie's face was somber and her gaze was fixated straight ahead like a robot. Alyssa wondered how she could appear so calm and removed from the situation. While her friend sat up straight and appeared to be hanging on to every word, she couldn't help but to shift in her seat uncomfortably like a restless child and let her eyes wander about the crowd of people. She hated funerals. Luckily she hadn't had to attend very many of them in her life. She just never knew how to act, what to say, or how she should feel...




            Alyssa paused from her position a few feet away as she watched the last of the funeral goers offer their condolences before leaving the cemetery. She looked back unsurely at Izzy who was standing behind her for reassurance. Izzy jus nodded her head as if to remind her that she was doing the right thing before turning away and leaving herself.


            Taking in a deep breath, Alyssa crossed over to where he was standing before she lost her nerve. His back was to her and he was staring solemnly down at the black coffin. She didn't have to see his face to know that he felt guilty because she felt the very same way. Very softly she approached him, placing a warm hand on his back. "I'm very sorry for your loss," she said in a voice barely over a whisper.


            Nick whirled around to find her standing there. "Losses," he corrected. "My losses."


            "Your losses," she repeated. "I'm so sorry Nick. I never meant for this to happen. I-"


            Nick held up a hand to silence her. "You don't have to apologize. It's not like your responsible or anything. That bastard got away without a scratch."


            "I know I'm not responsible, but we were... you know," her voice trailed off almost embarrassed to bring up what they had been doing. This had been the first time they'd seen each other since that night. "I can't help but feel like this is like karma or something."


            He nodded in agreement. "I know... I feel the same way. It's like we're being punished for making an impulsive decision. Well more me than you, but..."


            Alyssa shook her head. "I admit that you probably have it worse, but this has definitely taken a lot out of me mentally. I just can't help but think if things would've been different if I'd never went to your room that night."


            Nick shrugged. "Probably not. It was already done by then. Well, not done, but the events were already set into motion. I doubt the outcome would've been any different regardless."


            "You still can't help, but wonder what if? And you still can't help but to feel horrible to think about that while we were together, she -"her voice choked up and she realized that she couldn't even bear to finish her sentence.


            He gave her a small sympathetic look and wrapped his arms around her in a comforting embrace. "I know... I can't stop thinking about the same thing. Do you know that I was actually kind of looking forward to becoming a father? Guess I fucked that one up, huh?"


            "No," she shook her head. "Like you said it's not either one of our faults. Just bad timing I guess. It wasn't meant to be for you just now."




            "Alyssa? Wake up, everyone's leaving," Callie's insistent voice pulled her back into the present.


            Alyssa's eyes flew around the area and realized that Callie was indeed right. People were beginning to get out of their seats and pay their final respects before leaving. She had been so caught up in thinking about one of the previous funerals that she'd attended that she'd completely zoned out on the ending of this one. Her little flashback had her unnerved as she realized that there were almost frighteningly similar details surrounding that funeral and this one. Both events had occurred after she and Nick had cheated on a current partner together and they both involved a strong sense of lingering guilt. The guilt this time around though was different. It wasn't as if she was very close to Ian at all. No, this time her guilt had to do with the realization that it just as easily could've been Sean in that coffin right now. She couldn't get the thought or picture out of her mind and it sent an eerie chill down her spine.


            "What's the matter with you? You looked like you were off in la la land?" Callie continued to probe.


            "I'm fine," Alyssa lied. "Just not feeling very well I guess. I'm really tired. It's been an emotional couple of days."


            Callie just nodded sympathetically. "Yea and I'm sure being pregnant isn't helping very much. These last three months are a killer."


            "Uh huh," she agreed. There were certain advantages of being pregnant and Alyssa had quickly learned that all she needed to say is that she wasn't feeling well and she as able to get herself out of nearly everything.


            "We should go say our goodbyes and get going. Do you think that you're going to go to the luncheon?" her friend asked.


            Alyssa shrugged. She really didn't feel much like going. She felt too numb and had too much on her mind to have to sit through lunch with most of these people. As it was it was getting harder and harder to look at Kim especially now. She could see out of the corner of her eye, Kim collapsing in sobs against her father's shoulder as it really hit her that this was it. "Probably not," she replied, trying to divert her gaze from the painful sight. "Like I said I'm not really feeling up to it. I'll probably just go home and take a nap or something."


             Callie nodded. "I feel like at least one of us should go, so I guess it's going to be me. You should get home and rest. All this isn't good for the baby anyway."


            "I know." Alyssa knew that she was putting herself under a crazy amount of stress and she needed to calm herself down. She'd read that stress was one of the top reasons that led to premature delivery and she knew that her daughter couldn't possibly be ready to face the world yet at only a little over seven months.


            The two women approached the casket and were silent for a moment as they both said their last goodbyes to their deceased friend. Sean should be here, Alyssa thought fiercely. It wasn't fair that after his best friend's death he was expected to keep on fighting. He probably didn't even have time to properly grieve himself. She sighed, not wanting to dwell on the matter any further. She looked over at Callie who also appeared to have just finished her prayer. The two of them hugged and promised to call each other in a few days before going their separate ways.


            On her way back towards her car, Alyssa passed Kim who looked overwhelmed with the amount of people coming up to comfort her. The last thing she needs is another person surrounding her, she reasoned. I'll stop over in a few days to see how she's doing.


            Once Alyssa had arrived back to her vehicle she rested her forehead against the steering wheel and for the first time all day the frustrated tears that she'd been hiding all day came pouring out. Why am I so upset? she wondered. It's not like I was very close with Ian. It's not like he was my husband.


            That was exactly it though. She was crying for her husband. Her husband who was over in Iraq fighting for their country and putting his own life in very grave danger. Would he meet the same fate as his friend? Meanwhile in the past few months she seemed to have almost cared less about him. She'd acted as if he hadn't even existed. The way that she'd been carrying on with Nick was despicable, but she couldn't seem to stop herself. She definitely was no longer in love with Sean, but she supposed that a small part of her did love him, just in a different way that she loved Nick.


            Confusion clouded her brain and against her better judgment, she dug into her purse and pulled out her cell phone. Before she had even realized what she was doing she'd dialed Nick's phone number and was listening to it ring.


            "Alyssa?" Nick answered on the third ring. "What's going on? How was the funeral?"


            At first Alyssa couldn't even will herself to speak. The only noise she could seem to make were some pitiful sniffling sounds. "Lyss?" Nick now sounded overly concerned. "Are you okay? Do you need me to come and get you? What's wrong?"


            "I need to see you," she finally blurted out. "Please... I know you're working now, but is there any way that you could possibly leave early and meet me at the condo?"


            "Of course I can. Let me just cancel all my appointments and I'll meet you there," he agreed. "You sound upset.'


            "It's just you know... Funerals... They take a lot out of you. I just really want to spend sometime with you right now."


            "You got it. We'll talk more when you get there. Be careful driving. Calm yourself down before you get on the road."


            "Of course. I'll talk to you later. Bye."




            By the time Alyssa arrived at the condo, Nick was already there nervously awaiting her arrival. She'd sounded horrible over the phone and he'd immediately grown concerned about her. He knew that she'd been going through some extremely rough times emotionally based upon their conversation the last time he'd seen her. He knew that Ian's death was a painful reminder of the fact that she couldn't just forget about Sean and act as if he never existed. Factor in the stress of keeping their affair a secret and the fact that she was now in her last trimester of her pregnancy, Nick grew fearful that she really might take his offer to keep things cool between them. He knew it was the decent thing to do. If she loved him as much as she said she did, she would return to him after she got things straightened out with Sean, but still he was fearful. It could be a while until Sean returned. How was he supposed to keep his hands off her in that time? He knew that it would be quite a challenge. One that he did not really look forward to.


            When he heard the front door open he almost jumped out of her skin. Alyssa entered the foyer and continued on toward where he was in the living room. She slipped off her jacket wordlessly, revealing a simple three quarter sleeve, black, wraparound dress that came to about her knees. The expression on her face was shielded by an oversized pair of black sunglasses that were so large they nearly covered her whole face. She placed her coat over the arm of the couch and slowly removed her sunglasses. Underneath her eyes looked tired and puffy as if she were crying recently.


            He knew that no words were needed right now. He just walked up to her and wrapped his arms around her, burying his head into her shoulder as he rubbed her back. The two stayed in that position for what felt like minutes silently, until Nick spoke up. "Rough day, huh?'


            Alyssa just nodded. "You could say that. It was just very draining. Kim was a mess as can be expected and then the funeral was this huge military ceremony... It was just exhausting and I just want to do nothing more than relax and forget about it right now."


            "Why don't you go into the bedroom and freshen up a bit. I can go run you a nice hot bath or something," Nick offered.


            "Thanks," she told him. "That sounds perfect to me."


            "I'll be right back," he promised before disappearing in the direction of the bathroom. He turned on the water in the tub and adjusted the faucets until the water was just the right temperature that Alyssa liked. He wished that he had some bath salts or something else to throw in to make it more relaxing for her, but since they really weren't there very often they hadn't bothered to stock up the bathroom with much more than necessities. He'd have to make a mental note to bring some over for the future.


            Once the tub was full, he headed back into the living room to find Alyssa already gone. He could hear some rustling down the hall and followed the sound back towards the bedroom. He creaked open the half closed door to find Alyssa sitting on the bed just tugging off her stockings. "I hate wearing those things," she complained, throwing them to the floor for the time being.


            "They don't exactly look comfortable," Nick agreed as he eyed the nylon material bunched up on the floor. "Your bath is all ready whenever you are."


            "All right. Thank you again." She stood up from the bed and made her way to the mirror just a few short feet away. Her dark hair was coiled tightly into a sleek, sophisticated bun, parted sideways. She reached up and began pulling out hairpins and placing them on the dresser until her hair was hanging free and loose around her shoulders. She ran her fingers through it, trying to tame the waves that it had acquired from being up for most of the day. Nick watched her as she did this, growing more and more frustrated when it wasn't doing what she wanted until she burst into tears.


            "Hey, there's no need to get upset, Lyss," he told her, quickly crossing over to her and placing an arm on her shoulder. "It's just hair and trust me... I've seen you look a lot worse and I'm still around."


            "It's not about my hair," she cried, between sobs. "It's just everything. God, I just want to not have to think about Kim or Ian or Sean, but I can't get them out of my head. I feel like I'm just going to explode or something. I need to do something..." By now she was visibly shaking and Nick recognized the beginning of the signs of what could very easily turn into a panic attack any moment.


            "Lyss... You need to calm down okay? Getting this upset is only going to make yourself sick." He grabbed her by bother her shoulders so she was forced to look at him. Again he wrapped his arms around her tightly and let her continue to cry against his chest. Maybe she just needed to get it all out.


            She continued to cry for another minute or two until finally her sobs began to subside and she slowly looked up at him her eyes tearstained and pleading as they snaked around his neck. Almost as if the past few minutes had never happened she pressed her lips hungrily against his, catching Nick completely off guard.


            Nick finally managed to pull away from her a few brief seconds, totally floored by the unexpected move. He knew that she was confused and upset, but he hadn't really anticipated this sort of reaction from her. "Lyss, maybe this isn't the best idea right now... You're upset and I-"


            Alyssa interrupted him by placing a finger over his lips. "It is," she insisted with another kiss. "Please Nick... I need this right now. I need you."


Without even giving him a chance to let him talk her out of it, she pressed her lips against his for a third time, on this occasion grabbing the back of his head, so that he couldn't pull away. As the kiss deepened, Nick felt his resolve start to melt away. Deep down, he knew that it wasn't the best idea for him to take advantage of her desperate, emotional state even if she was practically begging for it. On the other hand though, he couldn't ignore her pleas for physical intimacy. It wasn't like Alyssa to be very aggressive, especially under these circumstances. It seemed as if she only wanted to find some sort of solace in his arms to help her momentarily forget the last few painful hours of her day. Finally giving in to her, he let one of his hands trace down the curve of her body until it came to rest on her hip, directly over the knot of her dress. It came undone easily in his hand and he pushed the material off her shoulders letting it fall to the floor behind her.


            Alyssa was already tugging his shirt over his upper body. Once it disappeared over his head she started moving backwards until the back of her knees hit the side of the bed. Nick gently pushed her down so that she was sitting at the edge and she pulled on his arm so that he could join her. He angled his body so that he was facing her and tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. He couldn't deny how needy and helpless she looked in that moment. He knew that now was one of those times that she was going to need him to put her first. He needed for every move to be tender and comforting to her; to prove that he really did care about her as much as he claimed he did. His lips claimed hers with so much emotion that it almost took his own breath away. Needing a break, he continued downwards along her neck, trailing kisses from right underneath her earlobe to the bottom of her collarbone. Normally, he knew that the move drove her crazy, but this time it seemed to have little effect on Alyssa. He shrugged the realization off as he slipped the straps of her bra off her shoulders and lowered his path of kisses over the tops of her breasts.


            Alyssa seemed to have other ideas than his slow, comforting, plan. Surprisingly, she seemed to have little patience for it at the moment. Her arms boldly reached upwards and grabbed his wrists, forcing his hands off her shoulders and down into her lap on the tops of her thighs. Nick pulled away and looked at her questionably, a little thrown off by her actions. "I don't want to do all that right now. I just want to get going," she explained, tracing her fingernails along his back.


            Nick could feel his heart rate speeding up as he processed her words. It was rare for Alyssa to ever beg him to get right down to business and as wrong as a set of circumstances this seemed to be, he couldn't help but to find her request extremely hot. Not wanting to disappoint her he leaned over her for another searing kiss, while his hands pulled her knees apart. He slipped a hand in between her thighs and gently rubbed against the delicate fabric of her underwear until he was satisfied that she was ready enough. Then he worked the material down her legs as he slid off of the bed. He knew that she was impatient, but he still wanted this to be mostly about her. He grabbed hold of her ankles and positioned her legs so that her feet were on top of the bed and her knees were facing up to the ceiling. Understanding where this was going, Alyssa laid back against the sheets beneath her, already breathing unsteadily in anticipation. She was confident that in another minute or so she wouldn't even remember that she had attended a funeral earlier.


            Her breath caught in her throat when she finally felt Nick's tongue move against her and she involuntarily shuddered at the sensation. Her first few moments of pleasure though seemed to be short lived. As soon as she'd gotten over her initial reaction she quickly realized that she was having a more difficult time than she had originally thought she would when it came to blocking out all of her other thoughts. The moment that her eyes closed all she could see flash across her mind was Ian's casket, Kim's crying face, and then most disturbing of all Sean. She quickly opened her eyes and tried to focus all of her concentration on Nick and the pleasure that was making its way through her body. The tactic worked for maybe another minute or so. Just as Alyssa finally began to let herself relax again, the thoughts had returned, only this time they were much stronger than before. So strong, in fact that Alyssa was beginning to feel increasingly numb towards what was going on between her and Nick at the moment and more and more uncomfortable with the situation. They shouldn't be doing this. She'd just buried Sean's best friend... How could she think for even a second that being with Nick would make her feel any better?


            That never stopped you before; a voice in her head reminded her. How many times have you used sex with Nick to hide from your problems with Sean? Why should it bother you so much now? Isn't it a little too late to be developing a guilty conscience? She had to admit that much was true. It was almost hypocritical of her to all of a sudden think of Sean. Maybe it was because of all the mixed emotions about him that had been stirred up after Ian's death that made him hard to ignore in her mind this time. Whatever it was a shaky, nervous feeling began to grow in a pit of her stomach that she knew couldn't be mistaken as the beginning of an orgasm. She had to put a stop to this before it got any farther. As it was the only image in her head was Sean's face with a hurt, betrayed look on it. This was wrong and as long as Sean was so far away she couldn't deal with this sneaking around any longer.


            It didn't take long for Nick to notice the fact that while her body seemed to acting on instinct, her mind seemed completely disengaged. To him, it seemed like a total one-eighty from the same woman who only a few minutes ago had begged him to get right down to it. He pulled away for a moment, a look of obvious concern etched in his face. "Lyss? Are you-"


            Before he could finish asking her if she was okay, Alyssa had sat up and was pushing him out of the way in a hurry to locate all of her clothing that had been removed. Her words flew out of her mouth in a frantic rush. "I can't do this Nick. I'm sorry. It's not you, it's me. I just... This is wrong. I can't..." Her cheeks felt hot and she could barely look him in his eye as she stood up and slipped her dress back on over her shoulders.


            Nick just stared at her dumbfounded for a moment as he watched her dress. He knew that she'd had an emotional roller coaster of a day and he had a feeling that pregnancy hormones probably had something to do with her hot and cold actions, but he was left feeling confused as if the entire earlier exchange had never happened. He also felt as if it was his entire fault. Was he losing his touch or something? First Shayla, now Alyssa. As dumb as it seemed, it was starting to feel like maybe he'd began to lose a bit of his mojo. She said it's not you, it's her, he found him having to remind himself.


            His thoughts were pulled back to the present by the sight of Alyssa out of the corner of his eye slipping her shoes on her feet. "I have to go," she mumbled as she practically flew out of the room.


            It took a moment for the fact that she was actually leaving to sink in to Nick, but once it did he jumped to his feet. I can't let her leave like this, he realized. I need to find out what made her freak like that out of the blue. Not bothering to grab his shirt, he raced out of the bedroom and down the hall just in time to see a teary eyed Alyssa pulling on her jacket. "Alyssa, wait!" he called out after her. "Don't leave like this!"


            "I'm sorry, Nick. It's for the best," she assured him through her tears as she headed for the door.


            Being larger and faster, Nick was easily able to get around her to block her path. When Alyssa tried to sidestep around him, he firmly gripped her forearms, so that she couldn't move. "You're not getting into a car like this. Not until you calm yourself down and explain to me what the hell that just was back there? You're too upset to be driving and I don't want to risk losing you and my unborn daughter."


            Alyssa looked up at him a chill running down her spine at the eeriness of his words. He was right. She didn't want history to repeat itself again. "Fine you win," she gave in with a sigh.


            Nick led her back over to the couch and helped remove her coat from her shoulders. Wordlessly he sat down next to her and waited for a moment of silence until he began to speak. "So, how about you clue me in on what's exactly going on in that mind of yours because I can't even begin to start to figure it out on my own."


            Alyssa just sniffled and wiped her eyes and then in a very calm voice said the words that Nick dreaded hearing the most. "I can't do this anymore Nick. I can't put myself in this position. This whole Ian thing has put so much in perspective for me and it really made me realize how fucked up I'm being to Sean. He deserves better than this. I really, truly, am not in love with him anymore in a romantic sense and I honestly do want a future with you, but this is the wrong way to do it. We're not being fair to Sean or Shayla. All this lying, and sneaking around, and the secrets... yea, at first I'll admit it was a big turn on. But now it's just so much unwanted stress. It's constantly being afraid of getting caught or what's going to happen when everyone else finds out. It's too much pressure."


            Nick's eyes darkened. "So, what are you trying to say? That you don't want to be with me anymore?"


            "No, I do!" Her voice rang higher with insistence. "I do want to be with you. Just I really think that we need to keep things platonic between us until Sean comes back home. I know it's almost too late for that because that line was crossed months ago, but I really think it's the best option for all of us involved."


            "You know that we can't do that," he reminded her. "Anytime we've tried it's never worked out for us."


            Alyssa firmly crossed her hands over her chest. "It has to this time. I can't keep doing this Nick. I can't! I have to worry about keeping this baby healthy, and it's not going to happen if I let myself continue to undergo all this stress."


            Nick unhappily scowled in her direction. "What caused this sudden epiphany? If I remember correctly not even ten minutes ago you were begging me to make love to you. Then as soon as I touch you it was like you couldn't get away from me fast enough. Talk about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! What was that all about?"


            Alyssa looked away realizing that he did have a point there. She couldn't blame him for coming out feeling confused and a little frustrated at her sudden change in attitude. "Again I apologize for sending out mixed messages. I thought that maybe if I just tried to be with you it would make me forget all about Sean because usually when I'm with you I do forget. This time it was different though. Every time I started to enjoy myself my mind went back to Sean. I couldn't go on like that. I wasn't enjoying myself and it's not because of anything you did or didn't do. It was just me. Something tells me this is the right thing to do."


            Nick stared down at the floor, his elbows on his knees. Deep down, he knew that it probably was a good idea if they cooled things between them for a bit. Their relationship was getting much too intense and Shayla was already beginning to have very strong suspicions. If their relationship was discovered and came out in the media before Alyssa had a chance to speak with Sean, it would only make them both look worse in the long run. He just didn't know if he could be around her if she was off limits to him.


            "You're the one who gave me the option in the first place," she reminded him.


            He sighed. She was right. He had suggested it to her last week, but he'd done it more out of obligation than actual sincerity. He couldn't go back on it now though. He'd made the offer and now he'd have to follow through no matter how much it killed him to do so. "So, if we're platonic we can still see each other, right?"


            "Only as friends. No kissing, no touching, nothing sexual of any kind," she firmly stated.


            "Friends can still hug, right? And cuddle?"


            Alyssa chewed her lip. "I don't know about that one. Normally they can, but based on our track record it might be best if we don't touch at all."


            Nick just shook his head. "I give us two days max."


            Alyssa just shrugged. "Then I guess our only other option is to not see each other at all."


            "No," Nick firmly insisted. By now he knew that her feelings for her were too strong to go without seeing her everyday. Not having her around would be enough to drive him crazy which might make the situation even worse. He'd have to man up and learn to love her without touching her. Once Sean returned home and everything was out in the open, he could be free to do whatever, whenever we wanted to her. But, for now he had no choice. "Fine. Platonic friends it is."


            He couldn't help, but notice the look of relief flood Alyssa's face and already it seemed as if a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders. You made the right decision, man. Think of it as a challenge of sorts. Not having any physical contact with her after all this time could only make it even hotter when they finally could be together, right? Besides, how much longer could it possibly before Sean returned home?


            He could only hope that the answer was soon. Very soon.


Chapter End Notes:
Thanks Darby for helping me out with this one!