Folie à Double Forme

Bones of Spring – WIP – Chapter 68 – Folie à Double Forme

It was past 2 am when Kat raised her head from the book about Frida Kahlo to the sound of the door opening. She couldn’t immediately identify the smell on him. He was an entire palette of different aromas, but all of them stank of vice to her, and the accumulated effect made her recoil slightly. She showed no sign of this as he half-staggered into the room, immediately going to the little bar fridge to extract an airline bottle of whisky. She thought at first he was going to fix himself a drink with ice and a glass like a halfway civilized man, but he uncapped the bottle and shot the entire thing back. 

From the light of the open fridge she could see his face — his pink cheeks, his curly hair stuck to his sweaty forehead. He sniffed as he wiped his wrist across his nose, and his eyes glittered when he finally raised them to her. 

“Damndest thing,” he said, giving her a grimacing, lubricated smile. “I was working this guy, you know, gangster type, black market royalty. Turns out he’s this ex-band leader, and he’s pals with—“

“I don’t want to hear it,” she said, returning her gaze to her book, though it was now incomprehensible through her rising rage. 

“So he takes me to his club, introduces me to—“

“I said, I don’t want to hear it, Fisher.”

“We cut up the dance floor for… I don’t know how long, to be honest. I’m pretty sore.”

She glared at him. “Stop it.”

“But do you know,” Fisher grinned at her as he leaned unsteadily against wall, shimmying out of his trousers. “I end up back stage because this mook wants me to meet his pals. I think he’s talking about more wiseguys, but as it happens he’s also managing— and you wouldn’t believe—“ 

“I already don’t,” Kat said through gritted teeth.

“It was Louis Armstrong.”

“And his trumpet, too, I’m sure,” she growled, quite ready to throw the book at him. She’d missed him horribly, but now she wished he was still out. Why couldn’t he just pick one intolerable personality and stick with it? 

“It was him,” Fisher insisted, now bent over the back of the white wicker rocking chair, gripping it to keep it from swinging forward. “Best handjob I’ve ever given.”

He giggled at his own joke in a way Kat found slightly grotesque. As he padded over to the bedside, she could now detect all of the smells on him, from his alcoholic sweat, to the whiskey on his breath, and the muddied mixed smell of perfumes from at least three different sources. He gave another sniff, and she wondered just how much cocaine he’d taken. It explained the feverishness, and his too-bright eyes. There was rouge on his collar, and he’d made no effort to hide it. 

“Do not get in this bed,” she warned, but he’d already flopped down, then fixed her with an incorrigibly delinquent expression, as though expecting her to indulge him.

She got up from the bed, shoving the book under her arm as she went over to the closet and extracted her least showy trousers and a grey silk blouse. 

“Kat,” he wheedled, raising his head from his sprawled position. He looked intensely ridiculous with half his body hanging over the edge of the bed, sock garters partially detached. 

“No,” she said simply, without explanation, and began to dress. 

He let his head fall back and heaved a martyr’s sigh. “I can’t help that I love the work. I’ve never concealed that from you.”

“The work?” she snapped, suddenly unable to stomach any more of his childishness, his arrogance. “Well, what brilliant intelligence did you glean from this supposed black market band leader? Did you find Carl Meisner?”

“I made friends, Kat,” he sniffed, turning his head to look at her.”You know, friends? People who you like, who like you, who tell you about themselves and what they’re up to.”

“Of course,” she sneered as she slipped on her loafers and snatched her cane from beside the door. “Making targets into friends, friends into targets, it’s all the same, right? Just Miles Fisher, playing his long game.”

“You’re the one who didn’t want to come with me,” he scolded.

“Because I could do with more friends,” she sniffed. “Well, perhaps I’ll make some while I’m out.”

Fisher lifted himself up, and rolled over so that he could glare at her in the darkness. “Don’t go.”

“Or what?” 

He pursed his lips. “Please don’t go. Come back to bed, Kat. This is just… look, you know I’m a freak. I warned you—“

“You’re perfectly free to chat up and screw around with whomever you wish,” she said as she worked the wedding and engagement rings off her finger. “But if you insist on it, then for the sake of cover, I must go and act out the part of humiliated wife.”

“Goddamnit,” he mumbled, gazing up at the ceiling. “Be jealous, Kat. Just say that you are. Don’t make it—“


She set the rings on the dresser. He covered his eyes with his hand, pressing his thumb and index finger into his temples, and gave another sigh. She wondered if it was the logic that was challenging him, or if he was still too intoxicated to make a reasonable argument for himself. More likely, she thought, it was the fact of his utter lack of moral position, and his inability to manufacture one. 

She opened the door, pausing for only a moment to look back at him in the dull shaft of yellow light as it streamed in from the hallway. He lowered his hand, squinting at her silhouette. 

“Where are you going?”

She shrugged. “Away from you.”

He raised himself slightly, concern now creeping across his booze-blurred features. “Kat, you shouldn’t.”

“Because of protocol?” she laughed softly. “I’m not falling for that.”

“Great. Whatever. Have a fine time.”

He turned away, pressing his face down into his crooked arm. She lingered by the door for a moment, looked directly at him, wondering if he was still awake, or if the intoxication had already pulled him down.

“I love you,” she said suddenly, unable to keep it back any longer, but speaking the words abruptly and without sentiment. A stated fact. A thing that was true, and incontrovertible, living easily alongside the fact that she wanted to punch him until he was more bruise than man. She shut the door before he had a chance to respond or acknowledge. 

It took her at least twenty minutes before her pounding heart slowed, before the tension in her joints slackened. She hadn’t noticed how much of her anger had collected in her body until it left her, and by the time she made it to the bar, she felt weak and shivery. She lifted herself on to the bar stool with some difficulty, hanging her cane at the edge, and setting the book next to it. 

“Gin and tonic, please. A double.”

The rotund bartender gave her a sympathetic smile. “That bad?” 

She stared at him. She didn’t really want to talk to him, she just wanted him to put the alcohol in a glass and give it to her. Still, she thought grimly. She’d set herself up for cover and now she had to play it, no matter how much she preferred to nurse her wounds in private. She couldn’t afford the luxury of telling this nice man to fuck off. 

Make friends, Kat.

That was the worst of it, really. She could take his philandering, his boozing, his turbo-charged need for louche society. The withholding bothered her, but it was the accusation that she wasn’t capable of making meaningful connections without him. Beneath that, she was nettled by the idea that she was bound to always be the lesser spy because she could not acquire targets and exploit them with the same ease. 

Of course, no one had seen fit to tell Miles Fisher that she had a separate detail from the one he’d so carefully manufactured for her, and that itself was more irony than she could easily tolerate. She didn’t have friends to spy on; she had an errant lover she was tasked with monitoring and protecting. Trying to keep up with him on a bender severely frustrated her efforts. Now she’d finally told him she loved him and she wasn’t even certain if he’d been conscious for it. 

“Yes,” she said abruptly as she drained the glass halfway. “That bad.”

“Running around already?” the man’s smile became slightly sinister. 

“Like Jackie Robinson at the World Series,” she said, borrowing one of Fisher’s own obnoxious Americanisms. 

The bartender gave her a blank look, but then nodded as though he understood. He mixed her another drink without asking, and then reached behind the counter and produced a hotel room key. 

“I keep this one for newlyweds,” he said with a grin. “For when it’s bad.” 

“Happens a lot in this hotel? Couples splitting up?”

He shrugged. “It’s Berlin. Friday nights are always the worst.”

She tried to read her book, tried to focus on the words about Frida Kahlo, but it was impossible. She feigned interest, flipping through a few pages, then finished her drink, took the key and headed back to the elevator. 

The operator was a different man, and he did not say a word to her beyond the necessary communication to get to her floor. As she moved down the hall, she looked at the key, and realized with a jolt that it wasn’t for a different room at all — it was another key to the bridal suite. 

As she drew closer, she could hear Fisher’s voice through the door, and for a dreadful moment she was afraid he was not alone. But as she listened, she could hear that he was speaking English, and the one-sidedness of his conversation told her he was on the phone. 

“Five feet, five inches, blonde, gorgeous, has a limp. Don’t tell me — then stop all of them, I don’t care. Authorization? You’re in luck because I’m on my way out the door and when I get there I’m going to authorize the inside of your asshole with my size twelve. And do not fucking touch her, do you understand me? No cuffs, no weapons — ”

She opened the door slowly. He was naked but for a towel around his middle, and going by the wet footprints all over the carpet, he’d been pacing since leaving the shower. He had his car keys in one hand, telephone set in the other, and the receiver jammed between his ear and shoulder.

“Jesus,” he said when he saw her, and then into the receiver:“Never mind. False alarm. Oh yeah? Tell them I said to blow me.” He hung up, then dropped the thing on top of the sideboard where it made a plaintive little ring. He stared at her, both relieved, but exasperated. “You can’t do that, Kat.”

She raised an eyebrow at him. “I can’t go to the bar and have a drink while I read my book?”

He was about to state an objection to this, but paused. Then he took a breath. “Kat — “

“My bags are over there,” she pointed to the closet. “My passport, my papers. My French escape documents are also there.”

“Well,” he said with a grimace, tossing his keys into the dish by the door. “You are resourceful. If you wanted to leave —”

“If I wanted to leave, I would have left,” she said shortly, going over to the bed and sitting down to facilitate the removal of her slip ons. “You spend so much time assuming my thoughts and desires. You have invented me in so many ways, it makes me wonder if you can claim to know me at all.”

He stood before her, still wearing nothing but the towel, his damp curls stuck to his forehead. His eyes were red, but his expression was sober. She looked down at his hand, the one that had been holding the telephone, and saw there was blood trickling from between his knuckles. 


He opened his hand, revealing the two rings and the place where the precious stones had bitten into his palm. He took a deep breath, then sat down beside her, still holding the rings in his open palm. 

“There are reasons why you shouldn’t love me, Kat. I’m not just talking about the binging or the sex, or the rank materialism. I’m…” he took another breath, and looked at her. “You’ve noticed, I’m sure.”

“Yes, I have noticed,” she said, keeping her tone casual. “I’ve noticed when you don’t sleep for three days. I notice when you’ve ordered half the restaurant menu, and don’t touch a bite. I notice when you spend a week’s operational budget on Cuban cigars, and you won’t stop talking about e.e. cummings or Judy Garland, not having realized I’ve been out and back only to find you still talking.”

He gave her a bitter smile. “The French call it a folie à double forme. It’s the thing that makes me fun for a short time… and unbearable in any kind of sustained acquaintance.”

“That’s not what makes you unbearable, Fisher,” she said as she gripped the edge of the bed. “It’s when you act as though I have already decided to hate you, and then you please yourself and leave me alone to wonder why I’m being punished. Because I don’t hate you. Not for the women, or the boys, or the booze, or even the drugs. I hate that I’m just as lonely when I’m with you as I am when you’re away. I hate that you walk away when you’re unhappy, instead going to the trouble of fighting with me. It leaves me helpless.”

He looked at the rings in his hand, then met her eyes. “When I convinced myself that you had left, I thought about times before. I’d hole up with some easy lay, do a few lines and dive into a bottle, then repeat for a week or so before drying out. By then, a phone call, some flowers and a promise of no hard feelings usually suffices to keep the channel open. My immaturity is generally forgiven.”

“Charm covers all manner sins,” she observed dryly. “And you’re very good at it.”

“When you didn’t come back, I felt like the air had left the room. Being without you, even for that brief moment, was like suffocation.” He stared at her, his lower lip trembling, his eyes shining. “I know that I of all men have the least right —”

“Why?” she demanded, turning to him, putting her hand on his flushed cheek. “Why should you of all men be reduced in any right, Fisher? What makes you think I would ever refuse you?”

“You deserve better,” he muttered. “You deserve someone whole, someone sane. Someone who can give you kids if you want them. Someone who can give you a life that’s not all looking around corners.”

“You foolish man,” she took the rings from his hand and put them on the bedstand, then gripped him by his damp curls, the better to make him look at her. “You absolute idiot, Miles Fisher. What life do you imagine I want for myself? The one I was living before I met you? The one waiting for me in California, working in a communications lab full of Paperclip men?” 

He frowned. “You’re not supposed to know about Paperclip.”

“And now that I do, I know I wouldn’t last a week in any scientific development program. I can’t work with Nazis, Fisher. Any life with you is better than that.” 

She kissed him, felt him lean into her, his exhaustion telling on him. He was feverish, but lucid, his lips moving softly over her cheekbone.

“I know I’ve been behaving abominably,” he whispered against her skin. “Worse than usual. I need you, Kat. I’m a man constructed of inequities, a lush, a slut, and sometimes I go a little mad. I try not to be a hypocrite on top of that, but…”

“It’s only the last I find abominable.”

“Don’t lie,” he said gently, touching her cheek. “Please, Kat.”

“I’m not,” she said archly. “Has it ever crossed your mind that I don’t have the slightest interest in domesticating you? It hasn’t, has it?”

He pursed his lips. “I find it difficult to believe.”

“You thought it was because I didn’t care. Because the ones who did tried to make you behave, and that’s always been your best escape, hasn’t it?”

“You make me sound terribly immature.”

“Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” she snapped. “I don’t want a kept man. I wouldn’t know what to do with one. I don’t want children. I don’t want a two car garage or a dishwasher, or… or…”

He met her eyes. “What do you want?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “I only know what hurts.”

“I don’t want you to leave me again,” he said in a near-whisper, as though owning to something shameful.

She shrugged. “What if I make new friends for a change? What if I have lovers?”

He took her hand, a frown appearing between his dark brows. “That’s not the kind of leaving I’m talking about. I’m not leaving you when I’m with someone else.”

“That isn’t how it feels.”

“I know. Kat, would you believe I’ve never been in love before? Not in any serious way. No—” He put up a hand to stop her from interrupting. “Just listen to me, please. I’ve been treating you like window dressing for years, long before we were properly introduced. Something I wanted, but I had no expectation of being able to keep. But I want to keep you, damnit. I want home to be wherever you are. I know I’ve been a miserable brat, but I am completely lost without you.”

He was miserable, she thought. He looked so dejected by the prospect of these feelings that she almost wanted to hate him for it. Yet she wasn’t prepared to demand that he be happy about them, either. The total effect was to make her feel unsatisfactory. Insufficient. She wasn’t sure which terms she was supposed to make, or whether she ought to demand he beg her forgiveness. He would do it, she knew. He’d probably get down on his knees, lay prostrate before her and kiss her feet, rendering his apology into a performance of adoration. And then she’d be helpless with embarrassment. 

She almost opened her mouth to suggest it, but when she looked at him, she felt her heart contract. His eyes were wide with naked fear, his lip quivering, his whole aspect tense with an apprehension that went deeper than simple rejection. She understood then what he’d been holding back from her. How close to him the losses still were, would always be, and that for her to even bluff at leaving him behind was a cruelty beyond what she could understand.

Her brittle pride immediately shattered. She put her arms around his neck, pressed her mouth to his, kissing away each tear, each whispered I’m sorry as she shed her clothes, his hands helping her, tugging at the fabric, dragging it off her skin. He was rough as he pulled her against him, his tongue invading her mouth, as though by achieving as much closeness as possible, he could outrun his terror. 

She wrapped her legs around his waist, gasping into his ear as he sank himself into her. For once it was she who spoke words of obscene encouragement, telling him how good he felt, how much she loved it, to go faster, harder. Wanting to feel that intoxicating blend of total annihilation and total trust. Soon they were both crying out in time, locked in their particular rhythm, all thought sublimated to the physical. When he sensed that she was close, he laid into her, something feral in his expression, as though demanding submission and tribute from her contorting body. 

She came in a wave of flattening, inebriating pleasure. She shuddered and twitched as his tongue moved over her ear, speaking words she didn’t fully comprehend. She felt him leave her, then the inversion of gravity as his strong hands maneuvered her on to her front. He groaned as he entered her from behind. It was a position that sometimes brought her unwanted memories, but Fisher demolished those associations as his arm wrapped around her, holding her back against him, one hand going between her legs. Mingled sweat dripped off them both as he poured soft directives into her ear to take it, yes, like that, baby. 

“Kat, I’m going to —”

She let out a soft groan as she contracted around him, felt him throb inside her, felt his gasp against her neck. He held her caged in his arms as they shivered together, then collapsed in a tangle on the damp bedsheets. He took her face in his hands and kissed her, swallowing her whimpers until she was still, and quiet. 

As she lay there, recovering her breath, she thought it couldn’t have been more than two weeks since they had last done this, but it felt different. It felt new. Her desire and eagerness to go deeper down into new levels of erotic expression, to give him more of herself, that was new. She wanted to  discuss it, to ask him if he felt the same, but he was already drifting.

“Darling,” she murmured, wrapping her arms around his neck. She stroked his lank curls away from his fevered forehead, kissed it as he nuzzled against her breasts. The tension finally left him, and he closed his eyes, letting his head fall back on the pillow. She lay her head next to his and closed her eyes.

She woke to the sound of birds. The glass deck door was open. When she lifted her head, she could see the edge of Fisher lounging back on one of the chairs in his boxers and white undershirt, smoking a cigarette as he looked out on bustling Berlin. 

At the foot of the bed were covered dishes on a cart, a carafe full of coffee, and a bouquet of red roses in a vase, bound up with a lace ribbon. She rose, slipped on her dressing gown, and went to the display. She bypassed the food, which would no doubt be whatever the best this substandard hotel had to offer, and took one of the roses instead. Putting her nose to it, she went out to the deck.

She paused to look down at him, his muscular frame, his decadent posture as he let both arms hang from the armrests. His unruly curls fell over his forehead, his sleepy bedroom eyes gazing up at her with the return of that lazy confidence. He let her appreciate him without any comment, taking a slow drag on the smoke before ashing it with one spare gesture. 

“Hey, baby,” he said, smiling. “I’ve been thinking.”

“Have you,” she sat down by his feet, letting her lips move over the petals of the rose. “What have you been thinking?”

“When we go back to the west, we make this official.” He held up the engagement ring. “Provided you’re willing to shack up with a crazy half-queer Jew spook who can’t give you children. I can’t change those things, Kat.”

“I love those things,” she said, touching the now-bruised rose to his nose in a gentle blow. “In varying measure, depending on the degree to which you are inflicting them on me.”

“It’s desperately arousing when you suffer me like a lawfully wedded wife.”

“And you,” she prodded him in the shin. “You think you can handle being married to a limping shiksa wolf bitch with the social graces of a minefield?”

“I do.” He grinned. “And in moments when I can’t, I can always outrun you.”

Kat tore off the rose petals and threw them at Fisher’s face, causing them to burst all over him like red, rose scented confetti. He tossed his cigarette away, then seized her around the waist and pulled her close, both of them giggling like giddy children.

“Never very far,” he promised breathlessly. “Not for very long.”


He held out the ring. “Promise.”

She held out her hand for him to slide it on to her finger. He admired it for a moment, then gently put the wedding band in her hand so that she could put it on herself.

“Bad luck if I do it prematurely,” he said, kissing her swiftly. “It won’t be cover for long.”

She slipped the plain gold band on next to its now-legitimate neighbour. “Now that’s settled,” she said, reaching down to pilfer one of his cigarettes. “Tell me what you’ve been working on.”