Amber crossed her legs hiking her skirt up a little higher. Catching the young blonde police officer’s leering gaze she smirked. “Like what you see?” she purred.
Clearing his throat loudly in the bare gray interrogation room he averted his eyes. She gave him an admiring wink leaning over the table “do I look like the kind of girl who needs to drug someone to sleep with them?”
Dumbly he shook his head mesmerized by her light innocent blue eyes. She ran her tongue along her lower lip as she kicked one shoe off. Moving for foot underneath the table until it nudged the officers knee “you and I could have a little fun while we wait…”
“Err,” he swallowed watching her as if he had suddenly become a trapped frightened antelope facing a hungry lioness. He jumped as the door banged open and his partner joined them.
Looking from his skittish partner to the doe eyed girl the older man had no doubts what was happening. Jerking his head towards the door he barked “out.”
His young partner looked like he wanted to say something but visibly changed his mind slinking from the room. Once the door closed with a resounding thud behind him the older man glared down at the young woman in front of him. She reminded him of a slow loris he once read about, cute but deadly.
Elyse attempted a smile to comfort her best friend since kindergarten. No matter what she came up with she couldn’t disguise her own bewilderment over what had happened. How had they been so blind?
“What did we miss?” Jillian asked as if picking up on her friends thoughts “we were best friends since we were five. The three musketeers. Why didn’t we see what kind of monster she had become?”
“I keep asking myself the same thing,” Elyse shook her head. She couldn’t help but wonder how things could have been different if they had been more observant. Maybe they could have gotten her help before things had gotten so bad.
“She was different since she went to college….” Jillian sighed getting up to pace around the room “if we had only done something when we noticed the change. If we had maybe Bruce wouldn’t have been hurt.”
“It’s not our fault,” Elyse told her “we couldn’t have known what she was doing.”
Shivering Jillian turned sorrowful eyes on her friend “I know. It’s just … I can’t help but think of all the things that bothered us about her behavior and we glossed over it. Found excuses for it.”
“I know,” the dark-haired girl agreed “it’s always easy to look back and see all the things we missed. We can’t beat ourselves up over it. She was good at covering up her tracks.”
“I know we couldn’t have known,” Jillian wiped at her eyes sniffling a little “I just can’t get the image of all those guys out of my head.”
“Neither can I,” Elyse whispered hoping Liono and Milo would come soon.
“Do you think it’s a good idea leaving him alone like this?” Milo asked glancing back at Bruce who was staring out the window. “It’s only been a couple of weeks since…” his voice faded unable to verbalize what almost happened right in their own apartment.
“He’s a big boy,” Liono shrugged “he doesn’t need us babysitting.”
“I know,” Milo sighed uncertain what to do. If he hadn’t agreed to the double date with Liono that night it could have been him in Bruce’s place. All he had to do was look in the mirror to confirm he fit Amber’s type. The news had been filled with pictures of all the other guys that had fallen victim to her wiles, at least the ones that had come forward. It made his stomach turn to think about it.
“It’s not your fault,” his friend told him his voice sounding harsh in his ear.
“Don’t you think I know that?” Milo growled jerking away from him. Sometimes Liono’s insensitivity got to him “have a heart he’s our friend.”
Putting his hands up “I’m sorry” Liono apologized “you know how I hate situations like this.”
“Yeah I know,” Milo sighed his friend would never change. Liono wanted to fix things and if he couldn’t fix it he ignored it. “I think we should stay…”
“Guys you know I can hear you right?” Bruce called from the window “just go. I’ll be alright.”
“Are you sure?” Milo insisted knowing if he were Bruce he’d never want to be alone again.
“I’m sure,” Bruce tried to keep the fear he felt from making his voice quiver “I have to be alone sometime.”
“You heard him,” Liono said grabbing his arm and pulling him from the apartment.
“I don’t think he should be alone,” Milo yanked his arm away “it’s too soon.”
“Which is why I took the liberty of calling Ramsey,” Liono told him chuckling at the irritated shocked look Milo was giving him “I may be an insensitive ass but I do have a heart. He’s my friend too.”
“Shouldn’t we at least wait until Ramsey gets here?” Milo asked relieved that Liono had thought ahead and asked Ramsey to come over. Sometimes he forgot the guy could be relied upon in a pinch. He’d never leave a friend in need.
Leading Milo to the elevator “five, ten minutes tops. Bruce will be ok in that amount of time. He does need to learn to be alone.”
“I guess,” Milo sighed as he got into the elevator still feeling like he was abandoning his friend.
The silence of the apartment became oppressive falling around him like a thick blanket. He hated this room as his mind conjured up half formed images of half remembered events. Turning from the window shivering from more than the chill in the room.
Turning his back on the view of the city behind him. He walked shakily to his room. All he wanted to do was curl up in a hole somewhere and cry. Maybe if he cried enough tears the pain would go away.
The sudden loud knock on the door sent his heart racing at a break neck pace. His mind jumping back in time to that fateful night he had opened the door to find Amber smiling up at him. Another knock had him scurrying into his room and squeezing himself into a tight ball on the floor. Covering his ears muttering “please go away. Please please go away.”
Using the key Liono had given him Ramsey let himself in when no one came to let him in. “Bruce” he called opening the door. Silence greeted him. Standing inside the kitchen he heard muffled sounds that seemed to be coming from a room off the living room. Going in that direction Ramsey kept his eyes open calling Bruce’s name as he entered the room. He stood listening to the cries that coalesced into tangible words.
“Go away,” Bruce mumbled over and over. His hands covering his ears as he rocked back and forth on the floor.
Dropping to his knees Ramsey sat awkwardly on the floor unsure what he should say or do. Mentally kicking himself for his oversight. He should have called first. Warned Bruce that he was coming over. He hadn’t meant to frighten him. “Bruce” he said his voice coming out in a low hoarse whisper.
At the sound of his voice Bruce lowered his hands looking up “I don’t want to be here anymore.”
“Alright,” Ramsey said “we can go some place else.” He moved to get up wondering where they could go. A movie. A restaurant.
Grabbing Ramsey’s hand the blonde shook his head “please I…I don’t like it here. I want…I want….”
“What do you want?” Ramsey asked settling back down on the floor “we’ll do whatever you want.”
Bruce looked into the concerned eyes of his ex. With a small sigh he looked down at his hands in his lap. “I want to go home,” he murmured. Home where his siblings would welcome him back no questions asked. Home where his dad would tell him everything would be ok. He could rely upon his family to be there for him no matter what. He didn’t have that here. Ramsey had saved him that night but he didn’t want him. The only person he had was Eddie and Eddie had his own problems to deal with. He couldn’t dump all of this on him. “I have no one,” he whispered tears streaming down his cheeks.
“That’s not true,” Ramsey insisted moving closer to him “you have your friends, Eddie and” he swallowed afraid of the admission that almost slipped from his lips.
“I don’t have you” Bruce cried too over wrought to keep his feelings in check. “It hurts too much to see you and know that you don’t want me. To know that I’ll always be eclipsed by Eddie. I can’t do it anymore. It tears me up inside. I just want to go home. Pick up the remnants of my sorry life.”
Ramsey stumbled to his feet feeling as if he had been sucker punched in the gut. Leaning against the wall he closed his eyes grimacing as if he were in physical pain. “You can’t go,” he pounded his fist into the wall “not now. Not when I’ve finally figured out what I want.” He turned to Bruce kneeling beside him he gently cupped the blonde’s face between his hands “I want you.” Licking his lips he peered into the other man’s blue eyes “I know I don’t deserve it but I’m asking no I’m begging for a second chance.”
Bruce wanted to melt into Ramsey’s arms and become lost in his concerned adoring eyes. This was everything he wanted yet it didn’t seem enough. “What about Eddie?” His mouth spoke the words aloud even though he didn’t want to know the answer. The answer that would make or break him “I can’t go through this again…I just can’t.”
Taking a deep breath Ramsey found himself saying “Eddie has Rory. I’ve known that for a long time. I didn’t want to accept it.” He leaned in closer until his lips brushed against the blonde’s. He inhaled deeply filling his senses with the man’s scent. “I love you.”
Before their lips connected Bruce pulled away looking deep into Ramsey’s eyes. He wanted to believe him. He wanted to be swept up in the moment. What was life without a little risk? He thought as he leaned forward allowing Ramsey to finish the kiss he started. He’d take that risk.
Rory stretched trying to relieve the tight muscles in his neck and back. Eddie glanced over at him than just as quickly away. This had been going on for the past couple of weeks. Rory hung his head rubbing the back of his neck. The silence between them was growing insurmountable.
Sighing Rory broke the silence “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” He turned pleading eyes toward Eddie sitting on the other side of the couch. “Why can’t I say what you need me to say?”
Shaking his head Eddie got to his feet walking in circles like a restless animal. “What do you think I want you to say?”
“To say I love you,” Rory said his eyes fixed on Eddie as he paced.
“It doesn’t matter,” he muttered hugging his arms around himself.
“It does,” Rory insisted “I’m sorry I’m defective. All my life my parents said they loved each other. I believed them. Then all these years later I find out I have a sister I never knew. All the times they said they loved each other were lies. They lied to me. Claiming they loved me. Saying they gave my sister away to protect me.”
Moving away from the window Eddie knelt beside Rory “that wasn’t love.” Reaching up he brushed back Rory’s hair loose now that he wasn’t wearing his hat.
“I don’t know what love is,” Rory mumbled staring at his feet refusing to look at Eddie.
“You do,” Eddie told him “you just don’t know it.” Crawling into Rory’s lap Eddie continued “you’ve been there for me and continue to be there me. I don’t know many people who would be that patient.”
“I even sleep on your lumpy old couch that’s too short for me,” Rory attempted to joke. He couldn’t believe this gentle timid man was still willing to put up with him. To put his heart on the line for him “I don’t ever want to be without you.” Rory said giving voice to his thoughts “I wasn’t whole until I met you.”
“Neither was I,” Eddie said in a small voice “not that I’ll ever be completely whole…”
“Don’t say that,” Rory held his face between his hands “don’t ever say that. What Amber did to you wasn’t your fault. Your perfect the way you are. I’ll spend the rest of my life proving that to you.”
“Even when I jump at my own shadow?” he asked looking deep into Rory’s eyes seeking reassurance.
“Even then,” he nodded “although you probably won’t need it now that Amber is in jail for good.”
Eddie sighed in relief. All those unexplained occurrences of finding things moved around, curtains open when he knew he had closed them. The feeling of someone watching him. The slashed tires. The broken door. Amber confessed to doing all of them. A shiver ran through him as he realized how close she had been to him all along and he never knew it.
Rory pulled him close “she can’t hurt you now. Not ever.”
“Why? Are you planning on sleeping on my couch forever?”
“Well I’d prefer not,” he watched as Eddie’s cheeks flamed “we have plenty of time for that. That’s not what I meant anyway.” He sighed realizing thanks to what happened to Bruce it seemed all of Eddie’s insecurities had resurfaced. “If you need me to sleep on your lumpy couch that’s what I’ll do.”
“No” he mumbled in a small hesitant voice. Looking up he took a deep breath “the bed’s big enough for two.”