Del looks so sad. So afraid. I want to hold him. Tell him everything’s going to be just fine. But he’s over there and I’m here. The table’s between us. And too many other things as well. Things that friends can accept about friends but that…
I ditch that thought.
“But I can’t always be there,” I continue. “So you have to learn to harden yourself, Del.”
He straightens. Looks at me steely eyed. “I am hard. I had to be, to be what I was and what men still think I am apparently. So I spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder and hoping that one of them doesn’t appear at the wrong time and fuck my life up again. That’s just great, Trev. Just how I wanted things to be when I quit the life. Maybe I should just say screw it and go back to it again.”
“Over my dead body.” Growling angrily. “You’re out and you’re staying out. If we have to we’ll move somewhere else where no one knows you.”
“We?” His eyes widen. Surprise. Some anger too still. “Since when is there a ‘we’ in all of this?”
I’m shocked too. I didn’t mean to say that. But it’s said now. And meant, I realize.
I get up. Move to sit beside him. Not touching, but closer. No table between us. Looking at him. Scanning his face. “I think there’s been a ‘we’ for a while now, Del. Yeah we’re friends. We’ve been that since we met, almost in spite of my stupidity. But there’s more, at least from where I’m sitting. I don’t know how much more yet, but yeah, more than just friendship.”
He’s watching me as I talk. His eyes on my lips. Like he’s afraid to see the rest. Now he raises them.
“You’re serious aren’t you? You think that there can be more. Trev, you are out of you every loving mind.”
I feel like I’ve been sucker punched. That’ll teach me to let my feelings out. I pull back. About to stand and leave. He puts his hands on my shoulders. Makes me stay where I am.
“You don’t want me, baby. I’m used goods. I wish things had been different but they aren’t, and no amount of running away to somewhere else will change that one fact. Maybe no one else would know who I am and what I was. But you would and you’d never forget it as hard as you tried.”
I want to shake him. Shake some sense into that head of his.
“Do you think I give a damn about that? I’m no prize either Del. I’m fixated on one thing and one thing only. Or,” I touch his cheek. Stroke it lightly. “Or I was. Now I’m not so sure.” Put a finger on his lips. “Shush. I’m not done yet. I’ll always go after the bastards. My hate for them won’t ever go away and I know that. But being around you let’s me forget it for a bit and feel…human maybe? Or at least less inhuman. I need you Del. As a friend always, but like I said more than just that. I’m not asking you to fall into bed with me, though I wouldn’t mind if you did. All I want is for the two of us to look to the future and see if there’s a place there for the both of us together.”
He moves my hand away. Holds it in a death grip. Never taking his eyes from mine. “Like I said, you’re out of your ever loving mind.” His lips tip up in a smile. Eyes lighting up. Tearing up too. “Are you sure? Really sure?”
“More sure of this than I’ve ever been of anything else in my life I think. But I’m not going to pressure you. If you need to walk away, then I’ll let you. But realize that if you don’t, if you decide to stick around, I’m here for you. And with you, I hope, as more than just a friend now. Caught somewhere between that and lover until we know the time is right for both of us.”
“Trevor Wallace you are something else.” He’s grinning now. And crying. He leans in, kissing me chastely. Pulling back. “I’m willing to try if you are. And,” he almost glares at me. But not really. “I am not running away. This is my home now and damn it I’m done running scared.”
“That’s my boy.” I cup his chin. Kiss him. Not softly. But not passionately either. That will come later I think. I hope. For now I’ll do my best not to push him.
He gives as he’s given to. The feelings are there between us. For now that’s enough. Pulling back, he leans against the wall. Points a finger at me.
“Now, Mr. Wallace, don’t you have something you need to do?”
I cock an eyebrow in question.
“Move. And I don’t mean out of the booth. I mean out of that dingy room you’ve been calling home, and into some place decent. Because I am for damned sure not going back there to visit you.”
“Deal. I’ll start looking tomorrow.”