The three of us just stood there in silence. I was staring at Dan. Dan was staring at Lesley and me. And Lesley was just very confused, looking between Dan and me.
Lesley pulled back and stood a bit off to the side, rubbing the back of his neck. “Uh, so, I have a feeling that I’m intruding and you two need to talk,” he said, breaking the stiff silence.
Dan swallowed audibly and took a hesitant step further into the bathroom. Lesley took that as assent and slipped out of the bathroom after a brief glance at me and a longer one at Dan that I didn’t manage to read.
Dan and I stared at each other for a moment longer. I had no idea what to say to him and he looked like he was thinking of what to say too. We weren’t together anymore, weren’t really even together before, but I wasn’t that much of a heartless bastard to not know that he probably felt horrible. Especially since he said he was in love with me and had proposed barely two weeks ago.
“C-Could you put on a shirt?” Dan asked, voice strained.
“Oh, shit, yeah, sorry,” I cursed, grabbing my shirt and slipping it on. It was still wet but I could deal with that discomfort way easier than I could with this situation.
Dan seemed more at ease when I was not half naked and I ran a hand through my hair. “I’m really sorry you saw that,” I started off. “Even though we weren’t fooling around in that manner it probably looked pretty bad.”
“So…you two aren’t sleeping together?”
“No, we’re not,” I said. It was the truth, technically. We fucked once, and just then, we were kidding. Lesley and I were probably never going to sleep together again unless both of us were heavily intoxicated, horny, and the only people in the vicinity.
We lapsed into silence again and I shifted on my feet.
“Are you…” Dan trailed off before biting his lip and continuing, “Are you sleeping with anyone right now?”
I furrowed my brow in slight confusion at his question before replying, “No.” Another pregnant pause before I stupidly returned, “You?”
Dan gave me a derisive smile, “What do you think?”
I grimaced, “Yeah, sorry, stupid question.”
These awkward silences were quickly making their way to the top of the list of things I hated.
“I miss you,” Dan eventually said.
I caught Dan’s semi-hopeful gaze and rubbed my face, sighing, “Dan…”
He chuckled morosely, “Is it really too farfetched for you to come to love me too?”
“Dan,” I started, running one hand through my hair. “I don’t fall in love. I don’t believe in love. I thought we made this very clear, that our relationship was purely sexual, when we first started fucking.”
“I can’t really help it, Jack,” Dan replied. “If I could control it, I wouldn’t have fallen for you in the first place. Especially when I know what you’re like in regards to a romantic relationship.”
“Then why did you propose to me?” I couldn’t help asking. Why would anyone do something when they know the odds were in favor of them being hurt?
“Because I was hopeful and couldn’t hold back months of restrained feelings anymore.”
I didn’t know what to say to that. This entire encounter was completely out of my comfort zone. It was why I had urged Dan to leave as quickly as possible the last time I had seen him. I looked around and remembered that we were still in the bathroom at Deano’s and that anyone could walk in, much like Dan had which started this whole mess.
“Look, do you want to talk about this later? Like, when we’re not in a public restroom?”
Dan blinked and looked around before nodding slowly, “That would probably be a good idea. Are you free later today? We can grab dinner or something.”
“Sure,” I replied almost immediately, grateful to get this confrontation over with, even if I would be walking right back into it later. The point was that I was free for a little while at least.
Dan nodded, “I’ll text you,” and then walked right out of the bathroom.
Once the door shut behind him, I sagged back against the wall with a low groan. I was not looking forward to dinner.
With a sigh, I removed my shirt again and ran it under the dryer until it was almost completely dry before pulling it back on and leaving the bathroom. Lesley had gone back to Tim and Carson and they were in the middle of their meals.
I sat down and Carson raised a brow, “What does Dan, or really anyone see in you?”
I rolled my eyes and grabbed a knife and fork, “My sexiness.”
“So, do we get a backstory?” Lesley asked. Tim looked equally curious so I assumed Lesley only told them that some guy caught us in a compromising position and Carson probably saw Dan as he entered and/or left the restaurant.
“He’s my most recent ex-fuck buddy,” I replied.
“Looked more than just a fuck buddy to me. He turned completely white and I swear he was about to either cry or murder me.”
“I’d really rather not talk about it,” I sighed. “Basically, complications arose and I broke it off. I haven’t seen him until now.”
“Complications meaning he fell in love with you,” Carson added dryly.
Tim frowned, “So you broke up because you weren’t in love with him?”
“Jack doesn’t fall in love,” Carson replied.
“Everyone falls in love,” Lesley interjected. “Jack’s just afraid.”
I scoffed, “What the hell is there to be afraid of?” I could feel a headache coming on and was in no mood to deal with people telling me the joys of falling in love, something that I didn’t even believe in, especially when I was still a bit hungover. “Look, let’s just drop the subject. I need a beer.”
Before Carson could berate me, I flagged down a waiter and asked for their strongest beer. Carson remained quiet but didn’t refrain from shooting me a disapproving look.
I ignored him and the tension I brought to the table by asking Tim more about his job. After the initial unease and awkwardness, we slid back into easy, light conversation for the rest of lunch. After Carson paid the bill, he and Tim went off together for an actual first date and Lesley had other plans so I went straight to the grocery store to stock up on the beer I had finished the previous night. I always had at least beer in my apartment, just in case. I felt…uneasy if I didn’t have some form of alcohol at home. Which is probably why Carson’s concern for my somewhat dependence on alcohol had some merit.
Upon reaching home, I stored the two six-packs and bottle of whiskey and flopped onto my couch for an afternoon of lazing about. Dan had texted me to meet him at seven at some restaurant near his place. I was not looking forward to the meeting. What would we even talk about? He was apparently in love with me, I obviously wasn’t, and then I broke off our arrangement. End of story. What on earth was there to discuss?
With a groan, I turned on the TV and it was on the anime channel Lesley had put on. Too lazy to press any more buttons, I dropped the remote beside me and watched giant robots in space explode things.
I was late.
Having fallen asleep to weirdly colored people with flawless skin doing things that shouldn’t be physically possible, I woke up with barely enough time to wash my face and run out the door and be only ten minutes late if I ran at full speed.
I got to the restaurant a heaving, sweaty mess and ignored the looks I received as I made my way to Dan, who was waving slowly at me with a small smile on his face.
“Sorry,” I managed, plopping down into the seat across from him. I immediately grabbed the already filled glass of water in front of me and downed it in several, consecutive gulps. “I fell asleep.”
Dan shook his head, “I can’t say I’m surprised.”
“Have you ordered anything yet?” I asked, grabbing the menu.
“No, I was waiting for you. One thing about you is that you never stand people up.”
“It’s a shitty thing to do,” I replied, skimming through the different offered food.
We ordered quickly and were soon given our drinks, beer for me, and juice for Dan. And then the awkward silence made its presence known. Again.
I tried to wrack my brain for what we used to talk about but honestly, if we weren’t having sex or fooling around, we were setting up the next time we would. Sure there were minor exceptions like being dragged to the occasional party thanks to Carson’s and Dan’s other friends who I didn’t care for, but during those times I was usually drunk.
I just wished he’d get to topic at hand, because I sure as hell didn’t know how to approach it.
“Hey, I was wondering if you’ve been sending me flowers?” That was one round about way. But I honestly did want to know who had been sending me two bouquets a day for the past workweek.
Dan frowned, “What are you talking about?”
Disappointed that that mystery would remain as such, I sighed and waved it off, “Someone’s been sending me flowers since Monday at work. No note or anything. It’s been driving me nuts.”
“Oh, well it wasn’t me, promise. What type of flowers?”
“Uh, yellow roses and purple hyacinths,” I shrugged. Dan nodded and that was the end of that conversation as we lapsed back into the tension heavy silence.
A waiter came by to refill my glass of water and I sipped at it to refrain from fidgeting. It didn’t last long, so I tried to prompt Dan, “So…”
“I want to wait until we’ve got our food so we don’t get interrupted,” Dan explained.
I nodded and sat back, looking around the restaurant. It was one of those quaint little home-styled ones with an emphasis on trying to remind you of eating at your grandmother’s. Too bad I didn’t know what that meant since I never met mine. My mother’s parents were divorced and dead and my dad hadn’t spoken to his since he was fifteen and moved out to live with his older sister, who he was now also estranged from. Not to mention, my parents split the second I left for college and I can’t remember the last time I spoke to either of them.
My family never quite understood the concept of ohana.
Our food arrived and I couldn’t take the silence of cutlery against plates anymore. “So, what did you want to talk about?”
“I just want to know if I really do have to give up on you.”
I waited before answering, trying to phrase my words carefully. I was enough of a jackass to him, no need to make things worse as I was usually prone to do. “Dan, I am a person who rejects the very idea of love. I don’t want a life partner or boyfriend or lover or anything as such. But I like sex. It’s why I either hit up a club or bar for a one-night stand or get a fuck buddy. If I gave off any signs of wanting more than just sex, I’m sorry. You need to move on from me. I’m a bastard and you honestly deserve someone who could actually love you.”
“Is there really something wrong with me?”
I blinked. After my carefully thought out response, he asks that?
“I mean,” his voice cracked, “is there really no way you could ever…what’s so bad about me?”
“Dan, shit, Dan,” I tried to calm him down. He wasn’t even looking at me, hands fisting his knife and fork so tightly his knuckles turned chalk white and I was concerned about the metal breaking. “Dan, there’s nothing wrong with you.”
“But you won’t love me,” he croaked.
I had no idea on what to do. Emotions, crying in particular, were not something I was familiar dealing with. I just didn’t do emotions. And he had never acted like this before!
I glanced around the restaurant and saw that people were watching curiously, some giving me barely veiled scalding glares.
“Dan, calm down,” I tried, keeping my voice low. “If there’s anything wrong with someone, it’s me. You, you’re great. You’re fantastic. You’re wonderful, and attractive, and awesome, and…and…and whatever other positive adjectives exist.” I was rambling, yes, but I really did not want Dan to start bawling. “And I’m an alcoholic bastard with no heart. You can do so much better than me.”
Dan got to his feet, mumbling that he was going to the bathroom and pretty much ran away. I fell back in my chair with a groan when he disappeared behind the men’s washroom door. I didn’t know what to do. Did I go follow him or did I stay in my seat and wait for him to come back? What if he didn’t come back? Should I just pay and leave?
God fucking dammit, emotions were too complicated! We should have done this at his place. Then he could have kicked me out and everything would be solved. But no. We were at a pretty nice restaurant and he was in the bathroom and I was getting death glares from both staff and customers alike, who didn’t seem to understand the concept of minding their own goddamn business.
Groaning, I ran my hand down my face and looked up at the ceiling as if all my answers would be spelled out for me. When the light fixtures gave me nothing more than the beginnings of a headache and sore eyes, I heaved a sigh and got out of my seat, heading for the bathroom. Walking inside, I immediately saw Dan gripping the edge of the sink, head bowed, and from his reflection in the mirror, his eyes were screwed shut.
I quietly padded towards him, glancing around to see that I had a bit of luck as the stalls were empty. Then again, someone could easily just walk in. That was how I got in this whole mess in the first place.
I cleared my throat and Dan’s eyes shot open as he looked up and saw my reflection.
Rubbing the back of my neck, I asked, “Do you…you wanna get out of here?”
As soon as the words left my mouth and I saw the cross between hope and despair in Dan’s eyes, I realized how that was usually taken between us.
Backtracking, I reiterated, “I mean, we both go back to our own homes. I’ve got the bill covered so don’t worry about that.”
Dan’s face fell and I wanted to groan. This was why I didn’t do the whole boyfriend thing!
Sighing, I rubbed my face and closed my eyes against an unavoidable headache. I felt like this one dinner took off twenty years of my life.
“Dan…” I began. When I opened my eyes, I was surprised to see him storming over to me. I had no time to react when my face was smacked to the side, my cheek burning, lips parted, and eyes blown wide. It was only when the bathroom door shut behind me that the shock faded into pain.
“Fuck.” Dan sure had one hell of a backhand.
I rubbed my tender cheek and went to the sink, seeing that an oh so wonderful shade of red was forming on my skin. It stung like hell but I probably deserved it.
Sighing for the millionth time that night, I left the bathroom and from the looks ranging from pity to disgust, Dan had left. I went back to our table and asked for the bill while finishing off my beer. The waiter gave me a pitying look, more focused on the handprint on my face than anything else, which I ignored as I handed over a couple bills. Upon leaving, it didn’t take much thought for me to head over to the nearest bar. More shots than I could count later, I was dancing, staggering, and then fucking.
A/N: Heyyo! Strictly Business has a spin-off book, Strictly Pleasure. It's in Lesley's POV so check that out if you haven't/want to.