“Working late” Stacy asked setting a plate in front of Noble.
“Yeah” he yawned “sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it” she waved his apology away. “Would you like a refill?”
“Yes please” he murmured watching her walk away. His mind conjuring up things he’d like to do to her.
“Here you are” she announced setting the refill in front of him.
“Oh” he jerked in surprised “that was quick.” He reached for the glass taking a sip.
“My shift is almost over” she smiled at him.
Glancing at the time he realized he must have come in at the end of her shift. She was working overtime because of him. “You can go if you want” he offered.
“No can do” she shook her head “I have to stay until my section is clear. Says so in the rules. Her tone was light but he didn’t miss the jab aimed at him.
“I should have listened” he mumbled looking at his plate. Glancing up at the sound she made as a group of four were seated in her section.
Another change he’d made without thinking about the consequences. Not only did the server have to wait until the last customer was finished in their section but the section remained open until the server was clocked out. Which meant she now had to wait on the group of four. She now had to wait for them to finish before she would be able to leave.
He watched Stacy as she waited on the group. They were loud, boisterous and rude. She never lost her smile or patience with them despite provocation. It was the first time Noble saw his changes in action. He realized now why most of the servers were unhappy with them. The first time he realized that not only does the tired overworked server have to stay but the next one scheduled can’t clock in for their shift. They were losing money they depended on to make a living and the others are losing time with their families and friends.
Taking his laptop out he quickly typed up an email apologizing for the changes he made and reinstating the old policies immediately. He knew that wouldn’t undo the harm he’d already caused but it was a start.
Getting up he bussed his own table feeling he owed Stacy something in way of an apology. “What do you think you’re doing” she demanded coming up behind him.
“Helping” he said turning to meet her displeased gaze. It was the first time he’d seen her with anything but a smile on her face.
“I think you’re confused” she said “I’m the server not you.”
Blowing air through his nose he nodded. “I’ve made several mistakes and when my parents come back I may really be a server. So I best be getting some experience at it.”
A grin tugged at her lips “is that your way of apologizing?”
“I’m not very good at it” he said “but I’m learning.”
“Flowers would be nice” she teased walking around him and into the kitchen.
He knew better than to follow her into the kitchen. Shrugging he tossed a tip on the table before gathering his things and leaving. His mind already picking out what flowers to send her in the morning.
Jason stepped outside his heart leaping into his throat as he recognized the man walking towards him. “Benji” saying his name out loud made his heart race.
“Is Royce around” he asked stopped several feet away. “He said he’d be here at 3:00.”
“He’s running late” Jason stammered. “You’re welcome to wait for him if you want.” He stepped aside to allow him to enter.
“I guess I could do that if you’re sure he won’t be long” Benjamin said avoiding looking in Jason’s direction.
“Um” Jason sighed feeling a weight settle on his chest. He was tempted to just leave. Run his errands and let Benji wait along for Royce to come home. Scanning the traffic hoping to see his brother’s Harley coming over the hill. “Why did he have to be late today of all days” he complained to himself as he closed the door and turned to face his unwelcome guest.
He turned to find Benjamin standing by the far window. “Would you like something to drink” he asked to be polite.
“No thanks” he mumbled glancing at his phone “I should be going” he moved towards the door clearly uncomfortable being their alone.
“Benji…” Jason’s voice cracked.
Twisting the door knob Benjamin hesitated before turning around to face his one time best friend. “Please don’t rehash this tired old subject again” he pleaded.
“You won’t even consider it” Jason blinked shocked he had the courage to say that much.
“What good would it do” Benjamin demanded his voice harsher then he meant it to be. “I’m sorry I don’t have the same feelings you have for me. I don’t want to hurt you but I don’t like you in that way.”
Nodding Jason stared at the floor wishing it would swallow him up. Blinking fast he tried to keep the tears from coming. The last thing he wanted to do was cry. It was bad enough to be rejected. Numbly he turned away wanting nothing more than to be left alone.
“Jason I’m sorry” Benjamin called after him. “You had to know that I didn’t share your feelings. I never wanted to hurt you…”
“Just go” Jason requested “please.” His insides were trembling. All he wanted was to be left alone as his world crashed in around him. The sad thing was he did know but he still clung to his pipe dreams. “I’m such an idiot” he mumbled to himself.
“You’ll find someone who appreciates you” Benjamin said attempting to undo some of the pain he caused. “I’m just not that guy. I’m sorry.”
“I don’t want to hear it” he cried raising his hands over his ears. “Just leave me alone.”
The opening of the door startled both of them. Royce entered, his brows knitting together “what’s going on?”
“Ask your brother” Benjamin said brushing past him and out the door.
“Jason” Royce said forgetting about why he had asked Benjamin to come by in the first place.
“You don’t have to say it” he said beginning to blubber “I’m an idiot.”
“What did he do” Royce asked closing the gap between them.
“He said….he said…” with trembling hands he covered his mouth unable to say anything else.
There were a million things racing through Royce’s head. It didn’t take a genius to know what happened. It needed to be said. Probably a long time ago. This time it seemed to have sunk in and penetrated whatever dream world his brother lived in. Without a word he pulled his brother into a hug, holding him while his tears soaked his shirt. Nothing else needed to be said.
An hour later Royce stood watching is twin wander aimlessly along the beach stopping here and there to pick up seashells. He’d never seen him this lost before. He was torn between giving Jason time to figure things out on his own or stepping in and enlisting their mother’s help. Even though he was worried he never entertained the idea that Jason would ever hurt himself or anyone else. He was more the type to step over an ant on the sidewalk instead of walking on it.
His fingers curled into fists. As much as he wanted Jason’s eyes to be opened he hadn’t wanted him to be hurt either. He wanted Jason to find that special someone who would appreciate what Jason brought to the table. Someone whose eyes would light up when Jason walked into the room. Sighing Royce kicked at the sand wishing he had something to punch. As much as he liked Benjamin he knew if he saw him right now he’d want to punch him. No one hurt his brother and got away with it.
“You have a fight with someone” a feminine voice asked behind him.
Turning he found himself staring at a tall willowy brunette. Inhaling deeply he said “no but I do wish I had something to hit though.”
“Not the cutie over there” she asked nodding her chin towards Jason.
“Not him” his lips curled into a soft affectionate smile. “Hitting Jason would be like kicking a puppy. You just don’t do it.”
“Doesn’t sound very satisfying” she agreed. One eyebrow rose in challenge as she looked him over. “I haven’t seen you around. I’ve seen Angel over there watching the surfers but never you.”
“I’m not much for the beach” he admitted. “I prefer long rides on my bike to relax.”
Her eyes widened “a bike like a mountain bike?”
“Hell no” he snorted “I haven’t ridden a bicycle in years.”
“A moped then or” she snapped her fingers “a scooter.”
Groaning he shook his head “those aren’t real bikes. I’m talking about a Harley. Pure power.”
Her eyes traveled over him as if she were trying to decide if he were telling her the truth. “You don’t look the type” she teased.
“Hate to burst your bubble but I’m definitely the type” he assured her. “You don’t have to be big and scary looking to be a biker.”
“So your a bad ass biker dude” she laughed making her whole face radiant. “Show me” she dared.
Glancing over his shoulder he let out a small sigh. “Later” he said “I can’t leave my brother alone right now.”
Wrapping her hands around his arm she tugged a little “Angel will be alright. Trust me.”
“You don’t know him” Royce protested “he’s upset. I can’t leave him like that.”
“Angel is going to be alright” she repeated nodding towards a group of surfers. One of them was walking towards Jason as they watched. “That’s Damian. He’ll take good care of your brother.” As the surfer walked past them she nodded towards him saying “go get’em tiger.”
“Hey wait a minute I know him” Royce objected moving to intercept the surfer. “Jason’s not ready….”
“Maybe this is exactly what he does need” she tugged on his arm. “You need to stop hovering and let him decide.”
“I don’t know” he looked behind him reluctant to let Jason out of his sight. “I don’t know you or that surfer. How do I know he’s a stand up guy?”
“I’m Natalia” pointing towards the surfer now talking to Jason. “He’s my cousin’s best friend. Damian’s a good guy. He’ll be able to make Angel smile if anyone can.”
Nodding Royce watched waiting to see if Jason got the overwhelmed frightened look he generally got when someone he didn’t know approached him. Relaxing somewhat when Jason didn’t seem to need to be rescued he turned to Natalia. “Do you still want to see my bike” he asked.
“This seat taken” Damian asked sitting next to the guy who had caught his eyes multiple times in the past.
Without replying Jason shrugged scooting over as if to make room for him.
“Bad day” Damian asked once the silence had lingered a bit too long.
“You could say that” Jason mumbled eyes desperately darting around the beach for his brother.
“Expecting someone” the pang of disappointment stinging. He should have known a cutie like this wouldn’t be single.
“No” Jason shook his head a little hesitantly. “I was looking for my brother. Want to make sure he doesn’t leave without me.”
Frowning Damian couldn’t restrain himself from asking “has he done that before?”
“Yeah” his shoulders rose and fell “I’m not very memorable.”
“I find that hard to believe Angel” Damian said using the nickname he’d given the blue haired cutie from the first time he noticed him watching.
Ducking his face down Jason could feel his face heating up and knew he must be as red as he felt. Groping for something else to say to keep the conversation going he said “you’re really good, surfing I mean.”
“Thanks” Damian shrugged “I’m average compared to the pro’s. I could teach you.”
“Really” Jason’s face lifted from his knees eyes bright with interest. “I wouldn’t be any good.”
“You’ll never known until you try” Damian nodded towards his board “Come on I’ll show you.”
Shaking his head Jason didn’t budge. “I’m not dressed right. I can’t.”
“Of course you can” Damian encouraged. “All you need to do right now is take your shoes off. I just want you to stand on the board. Get the feel of it.”
“I can do that” Jason’s voice was laced with uncertainty as he kicked his sandals off. Looking at the board dubiously “what do you want me to do?”
“Stand on the board” Damian instructed grinning. “I want to see your stance.” Once Jason stepped onto the board he shook his head. “Not like that. Pretend like your on the water surfing.” Before Jason could protest Damian cut him off “don’t say you don’t know how.” Winking he added “I’ve seen you watching.”
“Um…what” he slipped falling sideways to the loose sandy beach. “You noticed me?”
“Hey” his voice gentle as he knelt beside him “don’t be embarrassed.”
“I’m beyond embarrassed. I’m mortified” Jason cried covering his super heated face behind his hands.
“You shouldn’t be” Damian insisted wishing he had been a bit more tactful. “If you hadn’t been watching I would never have had the courage to approach you. I mean it does a guy’s ego good to know a cutie like you is watching him.”
“Yyyyou think I’m cute” he stammered peeking out from beneath his hands face still hot.
“Duh” Damian winked lightly touching Jason’s face “I’d like to kick the guy’s ass who made you think otherwise.”
“You can’t” he gasped lightly reaching up touching Damian’s hand where it rested on his cheek. Jerking his hand away as if realizing what he was doing. “It wasn’t his fault. It was mine.”
“I find that hard to believe” Damian grunted taking is hand away. “Come on. Show me how you’ll ride the waves.”