Tommy and Nikki go back to Nikki's apartment.
We step out of the Roxy, onto the Strip. Nikki pauses mid-step; turns to me. “I just want you to know,” he says, “that where I live is not in the best part of town.” His eyes are clouded over, and I shake my head, smiling a little.
“S’fine, Nikki,” I say. I want to tell him that I don’t care where he lives, as long as I get to be with him, but I don’t. Still, he seems to get the message, because he smiles faintly and, leaning over slightly, kisses me, running his tongue over my teeth as I open up for him. He strokes my hair, rubbing his thumb on the base of my neck, and I swallow, a shiver of pleasure coursing down my spine.
After a while, we break away from each other and continue walking. The Strip is lit up with neon lights; the moon hangs in the sky, all pale and swollen. There’s something almost magical about this night, and I smile a little as we walk.
He leads me past the Troubadour, past the Whisky, past strip bars where women hang out of windows and flash us. When we come to Santa Monica, at the corner where the Sunset Strip becomes Sunset Boulevard again, I automatically start turning, but Nikki stops me, yanking on my wrist so hard I almost fall over.
“The fuck are you going?” he asks, looking at me strangely. Frowning, I glance down Santa Monica.
“You don’t live down there?”
“No. Fuckin’ hell, Lee, I told you I live in a really shit part of town.” He sounds irritated, and I can’t help it: I feel stupid. Like I disappointed him in some way. After a few minutes—or maybe seconds, I don’t know, time no longer makes sense to me—he turns and stares down the Sunset Boulevard. He looks tired, washed out.
“You’re so goddamn innocent,” He mutters. “You shouldn’t be hanging out with a piece of shit like me.” We start walking again, and I look over at him.
“I don’t think you’re a piece of shit,” I say quietly. He shuts his eyes for a few seconds and lets out a soft, sarcastic snort; a small, sad smile twisting his lips.
“Give it a few months. Once you get to know me, you’ll hate my fucking guts.”
I don’t know how to respond, so I just squeeze his hand. I can feel the bindle of coke rubbing against my ankle, where we hid it earlier in my shoe. I want to tell him we can stop and snort more blow, but I don’t want to make him angry again.
After a while, we reach Wilshire. He looks at me and mutters, “Here,” and we turn onto the street. The moon has gone behind some clouds, and it’s darker than before, quieter. Not a lot of people are out, and I feel a shiver of fear run through me as we walk. The farther we go, the seedier the buildings get. I tighten my grip on Nikki’s hand until he snarls, “Fuckin’ hell, you’re cutting off my circulation.”
At length, we reach his apartment. There are junky old cars parked in front and trashcans overflowing with stuff. Nikki and I walk up, past a few hooded guys smoking marijuana, to the door. He takes a small key out of his leather pants and unlocks it. He has to drop my hand to open it and let us inside, and the second our skin stops connecting, I start shivering.
Inside, there are several couches, all of which are made of tattered leather. The stuffing runs out of most of them in piles, and I can see a rusty spring poking out of a cushion. There is a grainy T.V. set in the middle of the room, and a few of the people watching it glance up as we enter, then look away. The gray-blue fog of cigarette smoke hangs over the whole room.
“I didn’t realize other people are here with you?” I whisper as Nikki and I head for the stairs. He pauses and looks at me strangely.
“It’s not a private apartment,” he says. “It’s… fuck. I’ll explain in my room, okay?” He starts up the stairs, which are made of crumbling brick and stained concrete. When he holds out his hand, I take it gratefully, and I see him fighting a smile even though he’s rolling his eyes.
“Don’t tell anyone here how old you are,” he says to me as we head upstairs. “You ain’t technically allowed in a place like this… I can have a friend of mine hook you up with a fake I.D., but…” Suddenly he stops talking and shakes his head once or twice, as though trying to clear it. “Fuck it. Nevermind.” He’s frowning. “Let’s go.”
I follow him up another flight of steps, past a sleeping man in a beanie and overcoat, to a small wooden door. It’s labeled ‘Sixx’, the original plate scratched out crudely. He takes the same key from earlier and unlocks this door too, jerking on the knob to get it to open all the way. Once we’re in, he tosses his key on a pile of clothes and turns to me.
“All right, listen,” he says. “D’you know where we are?”
I shake my head. “Your apartment…?” I guess, and he lets out a tiny, contemptuous snort.
“Well, no shit,” he replies. “I mean… just… those people you saw down there? They’re other dealers. This is pretty much a crack house, except we actually have someone paying our bills.”
My eyebrows shoot up to the top of my head. I don’t know why I’m so surprised; I guess I was expecting Nikki, with his glamorous clothes and elegant name, to live somewhere slightly better. Still, he’d warned me, and I know better than to say anything.
“Oh,” I say. “Doesn’t it… I don’t know… scare you to live here? Just a bit?”
Nikki shrugs. “S’alright,” he mutters. “The main thing is to get to know your main supplier. Mine is James O’Neill. If you know your supplier, you can pretty much get away with anything.” Then he smiles faintly, reaches out, and strokes my cheek with his thumb. “Even bringing underage people back who you hardly know.”
My face grows warm. “So you have a supplier,” I say, because I really am curious to know how the drug dealing business works. “What’s he do?”
Nikki’s thumb leaves my cheek; travels down to the base of my throat. “Gives me the drugs I sell… I don’t pay him for it, but half the money I get goes to him. Usually I can cut a pretty good deal outta that… China White—that’s a real rare, pure type of heroin—is worth about $2000, so James and I each get $1000. Then I can go buy whatever th’ fuck I want… like a new bass, or some strings, or some antiques.” He lifts his left hand and gestures at the sparse furniture decorating the room—a Gothic table, a weather-worn bookshelf. His right hand continues its path downward, trailing fingers along my chest and stomach, and I shiver. When he reaches my hemline, he carefully lifts my shirt over my head, revealing the only tattoo I have—Mighty Mouse, bursting through a set of drums on my arm. His eyes catch it and he laughs softly.
“You play drums?” he asks, leaning forward and kissing me gently, at the place where my neck meets my shoulder.
I nod, reaching out to put my hand on his hipbone, because I have no idea what I’m doing, but I know I want to touch him. He stiffens for a second, then seems to change his mind about something and relaxes slowly, reciprocating my action, splaying his calloused fingers over my waist.
“C’mon,” he says quietly. “Let’s go sit down, yeah?”
He leads me to his bed, which is messy and strewn with clothes, empty bottles of nail polish, and crushed Coke cans. We sit down, and he trails his fingers over my stomach, making me shiver. This close, I can smell him; he smells of Axe spray and cigarettes and Dawn soap. He lifts his own shirt over his head and tosses it so that it lands on top of mine. His armbands come off, and then he kisses me, suddenly, fluidly. He crawls over so that he’s nearly straddling my waist; puts both arms on either side of me. Our chests are almost touching, or maybe they are, I can’t tell through the intense heat flowing between us. He chews gently on my lower lip and I gasp, feeling my cock twitch against the denim of my jeans. It feels like he’s claiming ownership of me, but I don’t mind. I will do anything to be with him.
Nikki pushes me back against the headboard, against the mound of pillows there. He nudges my legs open slightly with his knee, hovers over me. We kiss hungrily, ravenously. I dig my fingers into his shoulders and moan his name, and he grunts mine softly, grinding our crotches together. We move against each other, faded denim on leather royalty.