He sank down in his seat, trying to control his expression. “So you have a date,” he managed to say, and his voice was startlingly calm and even. “Your first date. That’s great, Ronan.”
“Thank you,” Ronan said, sounding a little nervous. “I can’t believe I said yes…I’m amazed that I managed to say anything at all!”
“Yeah. So, when are you guys going on this date?” he tried to sound casually interested, not obsessively jealous.
“I don’t know. He said he’d call me…and we’d make plans,” Ronan explained.
“Oh. I guess I could go on teaching you dating etiquette, if you want. So you’ll be ready for your date,” Luke remarked, proud of how mature he was being about all of this. Especially considering how miserable he felt right now…
Ronan’s face lit up. “I’d like that, thank you, Luke,” he cried.
“Sure,” Luke replied. “I’m happy to.” And he was only half-lying…
Luke slumped on the counter, gazing moodily at the interior of the convenience store. It was empty at the moment, in a customer doldrums. He considered it a metaphor for his life. He sighed, setting his chin in his hand. Life sucked righteously, he thought in disgust. It really did.
He was waiting for Ronan to arrive. For the last few days, he’d been coming here every day to be schooled by Luke about how to act on a date. It was driving him crazy that he was giving Ronan lessons on how to successfully date another man! That this Andrew guy was going to benefit from his teachings, and if all went well this interloper might steal Ronan away from him for good. Made him want to rip his hair out in frustration and despair.
The worst part of it all was that he still had to act normal around Ronan, to not let him see just how miserable he was. Luke was fair-minded enough that he didn’t want to try to sabotage this date, because after all Ronan had agreed to go out with this guy. He didn’t have the right to try to get in the way, much as he would have liked to. He suspected that he could do a brilliant job of scaring Ronan away from this Andrew guy, but that wouldn’t be fair or right to Ronan. So he’d endure, and be good, even though it was killing him watching Ronan get ready to start dating another man. He knew that most people thought that lawyers(or future lawyers) had no morals, but apparently he was an exception to the rule. Damn it!
The door swung open, the soft jingle making Luke straighten up and turn toward it. He felt his breath catch when hew saw Ronan, and he felt like he’d been punched in the gut. Oh, dear God, the universe really hated him…
The optical place had apparently finally gotten in his new glasses, because Ronan was currently wearing them. The big, speaking eyes that had been hidden behind the thick, coke-bottle lenses before were now easy to see. That, along with his now clear, lovely pale skin and the becoming new haircut…it made Luke’s groin tighten and his heart race. Ronan was just so beautiful! He bit back a groan, almost doubling over from the pinch at his crotch.
“Hi, Luke,” Ronan said as he walked toward the counter.
“Hi, Ronan,” he husked, barely able to speak. “You look great,” he remarked truthfully, “I see you got your new glasses in. How are they?”
Ronan reached up to fiddle with his new glasses. “I’m not used to them, yet,” he told Luke. “They’re so light! I forget that I have them on.”
“Well, they look really good. Andrew will be really impressed,” Luke said, trying not to grit his teeth when he said the word ‘Andrew’.
“Yes. Umm…he called me. We’re going out to dinner tomorrow night,” Ronan said, jittering a little.
Luke felt his heart sink even lower, even though he’d expected this. “Ah. Do you feel like you’re ready?”
“Sort of,” Ronan said doubtfully. “I mean, you’ve really helped me and all, but I just feel so nervous…”
“Of course you do. It’s your first date ever. You’re going to be a bit nervous. But you’ll do fine,” Luke told him. “Remember how well you did when we had dinner together?”
“Yes, but that was different! You’re my friend. It was easy to talk to you,” Ronan said, looking at him.
Luke gazed helplessly into those huge eyes, feeling lost in their depths.
“Yeah, we’re friends,” he said mournfully. “Err...but that doesn’t mean anything!” he added. “You can talk to Andrew just as easily, I swear. Sure, he’s a stranger. But he’s a stranger that wants to get to know you better. Just show him the person you’ve shown me over the last few weeks, and he’ll be totally entranced.”
Ronan’s cheeks turned a little pink. “Are you sure, Luke?” he whispered, his fingers twining together in front of him.
He nodded. “I do. You’ll be fine. And you can come and tell me all about it the day after,” he went on manfully, though it felt like he was inviting Ronan to stab him in the gut.
“Okay, I’d like that,” Ronan said in shy pleasure. “What do you think I should wear, Luke?”
‘A burqa,’ he thought, just before he said aloud: “That brown suede leather jacket, the tan slacks, and that blue cashmere sweater over the light-blue shirt. You’ll look fabulous.”
Luke sprawled on his couch and took a long drink out of the bottle of tequila he’d purchased earlier today. He stared at the screen of his TV, scowling at the characters talking together there. He was trying very hard to forget that Ronan was on his first date tonight, but of course that’s all that he could think about. What they were doing, what they were talking about, whether that guy was getting handsey with Ronan…he growled and took another swig from the bottle, intent on getting as drunk as humanly possible. If he were totally plastered, maybe he wouldn’t imagine Andrew touching all of those places on Ronan that he himself wanted so desperately to touch, and he wouldn’t imagine Andrew stealing Ronan’s first kiss(or maybe another of his firsts) after dinner when he took Ronan home. He just couldn’t handle these thoughts sober, so he was drinking like a fish, and hoping to get as tanked up as he could in as short a time possible.
“This sucks,” he muttered to himself, his voice already slurring a little. “S-Shoulda been me. Ronan’s MINE! Saw him first,” he groused, rubbing at the bridge of his nose with one finger. “I’m Pyg-Pug-Pag…Pygmalion! But m’ stashue doesn’t love me…” his voice turned maudlin, and a few tears sprang to his eyes. He took another swig of the tequila, mumbling incoherently.
His eyes went lidded, and he slumped back against the couch. The bottle of tequila fell on the cushion beside him, and he didn’t notice. There wasn’t much left in it, anyway. He fell into a drunken stupor, and was soon snoring away loudly.
Luke felt like shit. Okay, that wasn’t true. He felt worse than shit. His whole body ached and throbbed, his head was soggy and felt brittle, and his mouth tasted like an Irish bog. He squinted feebly at the customer whose purchases he was ringing up, wincing at how loud the noises from the cash register were. How had he even managed to drag himself here? He hadn’t bothered to go to his classes this morning, because he hadn’t woken out of his liquor-created coma until sometime after noon. So why had he dragged his miserable carcass to work? Because Ronan was supposed to come today and tell him how the date went, and he was apparently enough of a masochist that he wanted to hear all about it.
He groaned softly, counting out change slowly and carefully. He handed this to the customer along with the bag of purchases, croaking feebly: “Thank you for shopping here. Please come again.” The guy eyed him warily, taking his bag and walking out of the convenience store quickly. Luke slumped over the counter, very much doubting that that particular customer would ever come in again. Oh, well.
He buried his face in his hands, wanting to cry. He felt so terrible that it would have been better to be dead. At least dead people couldn’t feel pain.
Fortunately for him, the next twenty minutes the store was completely empty. It often was at this time of the afternoon. Luke dragged his carcass over to one of the coolers and pulled out a bottle of water, which he drank most of in several swigs. Whimpering, he opened a package of mini-muffins and nibbled slowly at them. They settled his stomach, and he finally started to feel a bit better. Not like death warmed over now; maybe just like a patient on his last legs…
“Luke?” he heard a voice say behind him, and whirled around in surprise(then clutched at his head as it threatened to fall off at the sudden movement). He squinted at Ronan, who was standing there looking concerned. “Luke, are you okay?” he asked doubtfully.
“No,” he said. “No, I’m not. But I will be. Hi, Ronan.”
Ronan’s eyes ran over him. “What’s wrong? Are you sick?” anxiety laced his voice.
“No,” Luke assured him. “I’m just horribly hung over. My own fault. Don’t worry, I’ll live. How did your date go?”
“Oh,” Ronan said, “Umm…it was…okay.”
Luke eyed him. “That doesn’t sound promising,” he remarked, feeling hope lance through him. “Let’s sit down before I fall down, and you can tell me all about it.”
Ronan nodded, and went with him over to the little table by the window. Luke sank down into a chair with a moan of relief, propping his elbows on the tabletop as he slumped over a little. Ronan looked at him. “Are you sure you’re all right, Luke?” he asked, biting at his lip a little.
“No, but like I said I will be. So tell me all about your date.”
Ronan fidgeted a little. “Well, we went out to dinner together. It was a nice restaurant, and I tried to do everything you’d told me. It worked; we actually started to talk to each other pretty easily. Andrew’s a college student, like you. Only he’s studying Biology. He’s really nice.”
Okay, that didn’t sound too good. Luke felt gloomy. “So, you had a good time after all?”
“Yeah. I was really enjoying myself,” Ronan began, and Luke thought dark thoughts about the slushee machine. “I mean, I liked talking to Andrew and everything. But afterward…” he squirmed a little in his seat, “He took me home.”
Okay, here came the bad part. Luke braced himself to hear something he really didn’t want to. “Oh?” he asked casually. “Did he kiss you goodnight?”
Ronan’s face turned red. “Well, he tried. He wanted to. But…” he dropped his eyes to the tabletop.
“But?” Luke asked, his attention sharpening. He was trying not to feel hope, but he couldn’t help it.
Ronan’s voice had gone very soft, and he had to strain to hear what was being said. “I-I thought I wanted him to kiss me, but when he tried I…realized that I didn’t want him to. I wanted my first kiss to be from…somebody else.”
Luke felt his heart racing in his chest. “Who, Ronan?” he asked urgently, his hang over forgotten. “Who do you want your first kiss from?”
A stiffening of the slim shoulders. “I…” he trailed off, then said something so softly that Luke couldn’t hear him.
“What did you say?” he asked desperately.
“You,” Ronan whispered, ducking his head even further. “You, Luke.”
Go to Next Chapter