Eddie was going home after his shift at the bookstore when a familiar voice said “long time no see.”
“Oh hey Ramsey it’s been a while,” Eddie smiled turning to face the man.
“Yeah about that,” Ramsey lifted a hand running his fingers through his red hair. “I’m really sorry that I…”
“That’s ok,” Eddie said walking away. It was hard enough to know his issues had scared the guy off it was even worse to hear him apologize when their paths crossed.
“Eddie wait,” Ramsey ran to catch up with the blond “I’m sorry. I crossed a line and I’m sorry.”
Crossing his arms in front of his chest Eddie asked “how am I supposed to believe you? It’s been over a week. Almost two weeks since we’ve even talked. Now you’re sorry…”
“Please Eddie let me make it up to you,” Ramsey took a step forward. His hand reaching out as if he wanted to take Eddie’s hand. Instead he let his hand drop listless to his side. “I know it was a jerk move not calling. I’m sorry.”
Eddie sighed rubbing his arms “ok tomorrow night. At the beach. I’ll bring a picnic basket.”
“Why don’t we go to….” he was about to suggest going out to dinner at the new Chinese restaurant when he remembered Eddie’s aversion to eating out. “Ok sounds like fun…”
Eddie heard the note of disappointment in the man’s voice. Eddie nodded electing to ignore it for now. He hoped it was just his imagination. “Ok it’s a date than.”
“Uh yeah a date,” Ramsey repeated causing Eddie to look at him with renewed scrutiny.
“Did you want to do something else?” Eddie asked suddenly feeling he had misread Ramsey’s intent. Maybe this wasn’t even a date. He must look like a desperate lovesick fool.
“No a picnic on the beach is good,” Ramsey assured him ” I uh should be going.” He turned and walked away towards a car in the parking lot.
Eddie watched him drive away. Why had he been here? He hadn’t been in the bookstore. Eddie was sure to have seen him. Had he been waiting out here for him to come out?
Shaking his head as he got into his car. Eddie wasn’t sure if that was a good or a bad thing. He could have called to apologize. No need to bushwhack him in the parking lot.
Driving past Rory’s trailer he noted how silent and dark it looked. Rory had left for a few days for some gigs with his band. Eddie missed the guy and how safe it made him feel knowing he was around. Eddie like him a lot unfortunately Rory didn’t feel the same way. After that night he spent on Eddie’s couch Rory had made it clear he only wanted to be friends.
Sighing Eddie got out of his car. He had no doubts that his neediness that night was too much for the guy to handle. He did have Rory to thank for giving him the confidence to take some culinary classes.
Upon entering the house Eddie wondered what he was going to make for the picnic tomorrow night. He looked at what he had in the cupboard and fridge. He could make some super tasty chicken wraps, a salad and some chocolate covered strawberries. Once he had the menu figured out he set to work in getting everything prepared.
He tried not to dwell too much on whether Ramsey really meant it when he said he was sorry. Did he even know what he was apologizing for? Eddie doubted it. After all it was just a kiss.
A kiss that he hadn’t asked for. Hadn’t expected. Furthermore it had brought up all these unresolved issues inside himself. What had Eddie done? When things got tough Eddie ran. Would he ever learn to cope with difficult situations in an adult like fashion? He hoped so. Maybe this non-date with Ramsey was a step in the right direction.
The next morning Eddie woke early stretching he realized that for the first time in a long time he had slept through the night without waking up in a cold sweat. He hoped that meant the nightmares were finally becoming a thing of the past. It helped knowing he had a brand new lock on his door that no one else had a key too. He smiled recalling how comforting it was to watch Rory as he installed it. He also added a chain so Eddie wouldn’t have to open the door all the way when someone came to the door.
Rory seemed to understand without Eddie having to spell it out to him how he needed to feel safe inside his home. He shook his head. He really needed to stop thinking about Rory. Other than that first night Rory had never given him the impression he wanted anything more than friendship.
Sighing loudly Eddie tried to clear his mind of all thoughts of Rory McAllister. How could he go on a date with Ramsey if he kept thinking about someone else? Easy the voice in his head replied you did it with Graham. Flirted with everyone that came within ear shot. “Shut up” he muttered out loud “this is different. It has to be different. I know now why I was so scared of what Graham had to offer. I’ll do better this time.” He looked at his reflection ‘keep telling yourself that maybe one day it’ll be true,’ the unrelenting voice in his head taunted.
When it was time to go Eddie gathered everything he needed for the picnic. Why had he chosen such a late time? Simple. He wanted time to prepare. Time to feel comfortable with the idea of going on a date. Instead all he felt was nervous. He parked the car as close as he could to the beach before getting out and walking the rest of the way.
He kept looking from side to side wishing he had set an exact spot to meet. He was beginning to think he had been stood up when someone called his name. He turned to find the tall red-head lope toward him.
Eddie tried not to stare but his efforts were pointless when Ramsey smiled at him “like what you see?”
“Yyyeah” Eddie could feel his cheeks burn as he looked down at his feet.
“Everyone is going to be so jealous of me,” Ramsey quipped as he took the basket from Eddie “I have someone almost as fine as I am on my arm.”
The color deepened on Eddie’s cheeks as Ramsey took his arm and guided him to a spot on the sand to set up the picnic. “here let me do that,” Eddie tried to take the blanket from Ramsey as he showered them both with sand.
“Nope I can do it,” he smiled “the least I can do since you went through all the trouble to prepare the picnic.”
“It wasn’t all that difficult,” Eddie protested. He took a step back and watched Ramsey set things up.
“Hmm this looks good,” he took a deep sniff of the baskets contents “smells good too.”
“It’s just a chicken wrap and salad,” Eddie mumbled “nothing special.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” Ramsey said taking a giant-sized bite “mmm tastes good too.” He wiped at his mouth “I almost forgot what real food tastes like. I eat out way too much.”
Eddie gave him a curious looked followed by a frown “don’t you worry about what’s in your food or whether someone put something in it?”
“What? Why would I do that?” Ramsey asked laughing at the idea. Looking at Eddie recalling the last time they had gone out “is that why you don’t eat out? Are you afraid someone will put something in your food?”
Eddie looked down and started to put away the left overs “yeah something like that.”
“Why that’s….ridiculous,” Ramsey guffawed loudly “that kind of thinking will only drive you crazy.”
“I’m not crazy,” Eddie almost shouted at him “nor am I paranoid. It happened once it could happen again.” He got up and all but ran away.
“Eddie wait,” Ramsey called after him sprinting to catch up to the fleeing blond. “I’m sorry I didn’t know anything like that happened.” He tried to pull the blond close only to have him struggle in his arms like he was being attacked.
“Don’t touch me,” Eddie cried cringing away from the red head who let his arms drop to his side.
“I’m sorry,” Ramsey repeated raising his hands as he took several steps backwards.
“You have no idea what it’s like to have hours of your life gone and have no idea what happened in them.” Eddie blurted out as if compelled to spew the words out “I used to be carefree, laughing and joking with friends. Trusting they would never hurt me. But she did. She hurt me, took something from me that I can never get back.” Gulping for air Eddie wrapped his arms around himself as if he was afraid he’d fall apart.
Ramsey took a cautious step forward “I’m not her. I’m not going to hurt you.” He cupped Eddies face brushing the tears away. He moved slowly so as not to startle the upset blond as he pulled Eddie close. He could feel the tremors that assaulted the other man’s body. “I won’t pretend I know what happened. In time I hope you’ll tell me. I’m here if you need me. If you’ll let me.” He could feel Eddie relaxing in his arms as the tremors became less and less.
Eddie couldn’t believe what was happening. He had his head resting on Ramsey’s bare chest. His very toned bare chest. He wished he could remain in his arms forever then he wouldn’t have to see how what effect his words had on him. He couldn’t believe he said all that. He never meant to say any of it. Pulling away he wiped his eyes dry on the back of his hand “I’m ruining everything.”
“Hey that’s what friends are for,” Ramsey assured him “we listen to each others problems.”
“Yeah sure,” Eddie mumbled feeling as if he had been slapped back to reality. What else would they be but friends? Why would anyone want someone as messed up as he was for anything else?
“Hey what’s wrong?” Ramsey asked watching Eddie’s face become sadder and more remote. “Did I say or do something wrong?”
“No” Eddie shook his head “it’s fine. Everything’s fine.”
Ramsey could hear the lie in Eddie’s voice and words but didn’t know what he could do about it. Taking Eddie’s hand Ramsey said “come on let’s go for a stroll along the beach.” He had one goal in mind, to put a smile on Eddie’s face before the night was over.
“This was nice,” Eddie murmured after they had been walking for a while “but I should be getting back. I have the early shift tomorrow at the bookstore.”
“Since when?” Ramsey asked “I thought you always worked the evening shift.”
“I did but I’m taking a culinary class tomorrow afternoon.”
“Cooking class,” Ramsey said somewhat surprised “from what I tasted you don’t need cooking classes. You could teach the class.”
“It wasn’t that good,” Eddie protested turning a deep shade of red.
“You should learn to accept compliments” Ramsey told him. He leaned in close “may I?” he asked waiting for Eddie give him the green light.
Eddie hesitated for a just a moment before nodding. As Ramsey’s lips met his for the second time Eddie felt his knees go weak as he leaned into him for support. All too soon Ramsey pulled away “I’ll walk you back.”
After collecting and cleaning up the remnants of their picnic Ramsey walked Eddie to this car. “I’d like to do this again,” Ramsey said after storing the stuff in the car.
Eddie looked down groaning “great just great.”
“What? If you don’t want to we could do something else,” Ramsey said sounding somewhat confused.
Pointing “I have a flat tire.”
“That’s no problem” Ramsey shrugged “I’ll have it changed in no time.”
“You don’t have to,” Eddie protested “I do know how to change a flat.”
“What kind of guy would I be if I left knowing you had a flat tire?” Going to the trunk he helped Eddie retrieve the spare “this won’t take long.”
While Ramsey was busy Eddie walked around the car “uh Ramsey I think we have a problem.”
Looking over the hood he frowned “what?”
“This tire is flat too,” Eddie shook his head “I swear the tires are brand new and I haven’t been driving over shards of glass either.”
Nodding Ramsey inspected the tire he had just removed “it looks like the tire has been slashed.” He finished putting the spare on. After storing the flat in the trunk he turned to Eddie “I’ll give you a ride home. I can come back tomorrow while you’re at work and have your car towed to a garage in the morning.”
Nodding Eddie gave him his spare key. “Do you think it’ll be alright parked here all night?”
“I don’t see why not,” Ramsey shrugged “Vandals already slashed the tires I doubt they’ll come back.” Taking Eddie by the shoulders “you don’t have anything to worry about. I’ll take care of it.” Ramsey helped him transfer his things to his car. “Now where do you live?”
“I guess that would help,” Eddie said laughing nervously.
Ten minutes later he was home and Ramsey was setting his things on the porch. “So I’ll pick you up in the morning and take you to work,” Ramsey offered.
“You don’t have to” Eddie said “I don’t want to be a bother. I could call a taxi.”
“Don’t be silly” Ramsey waved the idea away. “Well good night,” he said skipping down the steps and waving when he got in his car.
Eddie waved back before turning to open his door somewhat disappointed that Ramsey hadn’t given him a good night kiss.