“This is crazy. I can’t believe I’m even thinking about doing this. What if he says no? Fuck. What if he said yes. What if he agrees, and I end up driving away the best thing that’s ever happened to me? Godammitmotherfuck! Why are relationships so fucking shitting hard?”
“Are you done?”
Ash spun to face Letty and growled at her. “No, I am not fucking done. Fuck all the fucking fucks. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuuuuuuck.” He crossed his arms over his chest and glared at her. “Now I’m fucking done.”
“Your maturity is inspiring,” Letty replied, not looking impressed. “Why are you so worked up about this?”
Ash threw his hands out. “Did you not hear what I said?”
“Oh, you mean you used words other than ‘fuck’?”
“You’re hilarious. And not helping.” He dropped down onto the couch tucked in the corner of Dekatri’s roof garden where he’d asked Letty to meet him before everyone else arrived. Sloane was busy with training and his stupidly annoying fiancé. Everyone else would be arriving in a couple of hours and meeting downstairs like usual, including Cael who had some errands to run before tonight. Ash figured now was a good time as any to figure this shit out once and for all. He’d been going back and forth on it for weeks, and it was driving him out of his mind.
“Let me ask you something,” Letty said before taking a sip of her beer. “You want to, don’t you?”
“Yeah, of course I do. I wouldn’t even be thinking about it otherwise.”
“And you know he’ll say yes.”
Ash grimaced. “I don’t know that.”
Letty pointed her beer bottle at the bartender. “Dude, even the new guy who’s served you like twice knows Cael will say yes.”
Ash rolled his eyes.
“So, if you want Cael to move in with you, and you know he will, what’s the problem?”
“The problem, as I stated earlier when you weren’t fucking paying attention, is that I’m worried he’ll get fed up with my bullshit and I’ll end up driving him away. I can’t lose him, Letty.” Ash frowned down at his fingers and sighed. God, he was such a sap. He’d watched Sloane slowly spiral down the path of love and thought nope. He never thought he’d fall in love much less get to a point where he couldn’t imagine his life without that person. Granted, he loved Sloane and couldn’t imagine his life without him, but the thought of losing Cael was a completely different fear, and sometimes he just didn’t know what to do with that.
“Ash, Cael has been your boyfriend for over a year and a half. You’re practically living together as it is. If you haven’t scared him off by now, he’s not going anywhere.”
Ash sat up and turned to face. “Well damn, I’m glad I called you over because that little wisdom nugget you just shat out solved all my problems.”
Letty almost choked on her beer, and Ash didn’t appreciate her laughing when he was having a damned crisis. “Wisdom nugget? Oh my God, you’ve been hanging around Dex way too long.”
“Shut up.” He let his head fall back against the couch with a groan and glared at the ceiling. Having feelings was so damned annoying.
She snorted before taking another sip of her beer.
“Tell me, does Captain Kirk comment on what a delicate flower you are?”
Letty flipped him off. “You’re supposed to be advising me.”
Letty’s soft tone made him turn his head in her direction again, and he was caught off guard by the tenderness there. It didn’t show itself often. Not that she wasn’t a kind person or didn’t care, she just wasn’t the kind to wear her heart on her sleeve. She’d been hurt too often for that, so she kept it all close to her chest, studied people, got to trust them before she opened herself up in any way. They really weren’t so different, though clearly Ash was the bigger, meaner, uncensored version.
“Here’s what I truly believe. I believe Cael is absolutely crazy about you. He’s been crazy about you since you met. And I know you won’t believe me when I tell you this, but you’re good for him.”
Ash scoffed. “You’re right. I don’t believe you.”
“You are, asshole. Haven’t you noticed how he’s become more outspoken?”
“And that’s a good thing?”
“Yes, it’s a good thing. Cael’s always been quiet, and unless someone hurt his family, Cael never really stood up for himself. His confidence since you to have been together has grown so much. He doesn’t let people take advantage of him, or talk down to him, and he’s gotten so much better at standing up to Therians bigger than him.”
Now that he thought about it, Letty was right. Cael was still sweet and kind as ever, but he was more self-assured now than when they’d first met, but he’d always put that down to Cael getting older. He’d been a fresh-faced college graduate when they’d met, and now Cael was in his thirties. Not to mention the last few years hadn’t been easy for any of them, but especially for Cael and his family.
“Why are relationships so exhausting?” He’d never been inside his own head so much in his life. Where Cael was concerned, Ash always stopped to think first. He never wanted to do or say something stupid that would end up hurting Cael. Sure, he messed up, but Cael taught him to stop, listen, and talk. Fuck did they talk.
“Because we’re all complicated creatures,” Letty said. “He’s been really good for you too, you know.” She playfully bumped into him, and he couldn’t help his smile.
“That I know. Sometimes when we’re watching TV and he’s cuddled up beside me on the couch, I look at him and wonder how the hell I ended up so lucky.” It really did baffle him at times.
“You know, Ash, one of these days you’re going to see what the rest of us sees.”
“And what’s that?”
She smiled warmly at him. “A good man.”
Well shit. Before he could respond, he saw Cael step out onto the rood garden. Fuck, he was beautiful. Cael turned, and when he saw Ash, a gorgeous smile spread across his face. It hit him hard. That smile was for him. Cael really was crazy about him. Deep down, he knew Cael loved him, but there was always that little niggling voice in his head that tried to fuck with him, insisting Cael wouldn’t stick around forever. Surely someone better for him would come along. What if that someone better was Ash?
Cael headed their way, and Letty patted his leg before getting up. “I’ll text you when everyone arrives. You love birds have fun in the meantime.” She turned and smiled at him. “It’ll be fine. You’ll see.”
“Don’t tell anyone, okay? I want to ask him first.”
Letty nodded, and he knew she wouldn’t tell anyone, not even Rosa. Letty was one of the few people Ash could trust to keep a secret for him. Cael stopped to greet her, and they hugged before Letty headed off, and Cael dropped down onto the couch beside him.
“Hi, handsome.” Cael’s smile was dazzling, and Ash leaned in to kiss him. He’d never been one for public displays of affection, but with Cael, he didn’t care. There was no way he wasn’t kissing Cael, wasn’t holding his hand, or hugging him. Anyone who had a problem could fuck off.
Ash wrapped his arms around Cael, pulling him close against him, and Cael melted in his arms like he always did. He let out a soft sigh, his fingers curled into Ash’s shirt as he returned Ash’s kiss. It was slow, sweet, and full of love. In that moment, Ash decided. He wanted Cael with living with him. Hopefully, Cael would want the same. There was only one way to find out.
Part Two next week. Copyright © 2018 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.