Fifteen minutes later they pulled into the parking lot behind a small restaurant on the outskirts of the city. Once inside Kirby greeted the host, introducing him to Dean as Tom, an old friend and ex-cop who had gone into business for himself after retiring.
The older man shook Dean’s hand, saying while he led them to a table to one side of the room, “You did a brave thing tonight young man.”
“Thank you.” Dean replied. “It was time, I guess.”
“More than,” Kirby said in agreement as he sat down. “A beer? Or something stronger, or weaker?”
“A beer’s fine.”
“It’s on the house,” Tom said, “as are your meals.” He patted Dean’s shoulder when he began to protest. “Do not argue with your elders. You earned it I think.”
As Tom walked away Kirby smiled. “He used to be a really prejudiced asshole when he was on the force. But towards the end he mellowed out and we became friends.” He chuckled. “I’m not sure he approves of me, but he’s accepts me as I am and that’s what counts.”
A waiter came over with their beers and asked if they knew what they wanted to eat. Kirby suggested the house special, ordering it for both of them when Dean said it sounded good.
“To…success,” Kirby said when the waiter was gone, lifting his glass.
“To success.” Dean smiled; tapping the rim of his glass with Kirby’s then taking a sip. “Now the question becomes, success in what?”
“In surviving your father, for starters I guess.”
“I will. He’s done his worst, making me live in fear of him and his warped ideas all these years. It’s over now. He can’t hurt me any more.”
Kirby refrained from saying it wasn’t quite true. He didn’t want to spoil what was left of their evening together. Instead he said, “There’s also the success of your next show, after all that happened.”
“We’ll pull together. We’re theater people, we always do.”
“And then…there’s success on a more personal level. Yeah, I know, we’re not going to think about it until everything is back to normal, but I can still drink to it,” which he did. He smiled when Dean nodded, lifted his glass to him and took a drink.
For a long moment they just looked at each other, neither one quite sure what to say next. Their silence was broken when Dean’s phone chimed.
“What are the odds it’s my father,” Dean muttered before checking the name on the screen. His mouth tightened and he pocketed the phone.
“Dean, you’re going to have to talk to him sometime.”
“I know, but not right now. Maybe not for a long time to come. He’s only going to tell me I’m sick and need counseling to cure me of my ‘affliction’.”
“If he does you can suggest he’s the one who needs it.”
“I so wish.” Dean sighed. “I don’t have what it takes to fight him, Kirby. I never did. What happened tonight was purely an impulse born of frustration and a need to finally be open and step out of the closet I put myself in because of him.”
“Exactly, because of him, not because you wanted to be there. Now you’re out and I suspect in the days to come you’re going to find out you’re exactly where you should be. If that makes any kind of sense.”
Dean smiled. “It does, and you’re right, and I’m hungry. Where’s our food?”
Reaching over, Kirby patted his shoulder. “That was a very effective way to end that topic, and unless I’m wrong we’ll be eating momentarily.”
He wasn’t wrong. The waiter arrived seconds later to place their plates in front of them.
“If this tastes as good as it smells,” Dean said before taking a bite of the entrée.
“Fit for the gods, or two starving men,” Kirby replied with a grin.
They ate in companionable silence, Dean studiously ignoring his phone when it chimed several times during the meal. Finally Kirby pointed out he could just turn it off, which he did with a sigh of relief.