He moves to the mantelpiece, one particular picture catching his eye. It’s Adam with another man, and it looks recent. It’s the first proper chance he’s had to look at an Adam with five extra years on him—he doesn’t seem much different. Same hairstyle, same smooth, golden skin, same build. Maybe the beginnings of a line or two around his eyes, although that could be down to the massive grin he’s sporting for the camera.
He looks happy. And he’s still beautiful.
“That one was taken a couple of months ago,” Laila says, coming up next to him. He hadn’t heard her entering the room.
Dean smiles. He has the strangest urge to run the tip of his finger over the image of Adam’s face. “He hasn’t changed much.”
“Forever young and beautiful,” Laila says with a little laugh. “I kind of hate him.”
He looks at the man standing next to Adam in the picture—he’s young, maybe around Adam’s age, dark hair and eyes and enviable cheekbones. “Is that…?”
“Just a friend,” Laila says knowingly. She reaches out to readjust the picture, straighten it. Dean gets the feeling she’s just looking for something to do with her hands. “Housemate. He hasn’t—there hasn’t really been anyone. The odd fling here and there…”
“I wanted him to move on.” That was the plan. It would kill him now, to know that he has.
She looks up at him. “Then what are you doing here?”
It takes him a few moments to answer. “I thought I was getting a life sentence,” he says, then gives her a wry smile. “I didn’t get life.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“Adam, he’s…” He chokes on his answer. Not outwardly, but something within him stops the words in his throat, his desire to say what he feels. His history of bottling everything up working against him.
“Go on,” she urges, and when he doesn’t answer, she takes him by the arm and turns him to face her. He’s so startled by the contact that he doesn’t think to resist. “Dean, please,” she pushes, and there’s something close to a plea in her eyes. “I know you don’t do the whole expressing feelings thing but give me something real. Just so I know I’m doing the right thing here.”
He brings a hand up to rub his brow, desperate for the right words, a way to explain how he feels, the ability to expose his emotions in a way he never has before, not with someone like Laila.
But she needs to know. She’s going out on a limb here for him, giving him the time of day, letting him into her world, into Adam’s world. And after everything he’s put her through in the past, everything he’s put Adam through that she’s had to watch, she deserves to know now, what he wants, why he’s here. No façade. No pretences.
He owes her that much, at least.
He takes a breath and looks her in the eye. “I can’t live my life without him,” he says, the words cracking in his throat. “I don’t know how to even try. I…” He pauses, and he shifts his feet, and he can’t help the discomfort he feels at saying these things out loud. Things he’s thought about every day for the past half a decade.
She nods, urging him to continue, looking transfixed by his confession.
“I love him,” he says, the words coming out on an anxious breath. “There’ll never be anyone else for me, regardless of what happens here now.”
She searches his eyes, her brows slightly drawn together. “You really believe you’ll go your whole life never getting involved with another man?”
He gives a quiet, awkward laugh. “If Adam turns me away, there’ll always be other men,” he admits. “I don’t do celibacy.” He looks down, smooths a thumb over the edge of his stubble. “But I’m not capable of feeling anything for any other man. It’s like…I don’t know.” He shrugs, and something about this makes him smile, soft and annoyingly sentimental. “Like I was built for him or something.”
There’s a pause, and then: “That’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard you say. If a bit twisted.”
It knocks another laugh out of him, easing some of the discomfort he feels at opening up so much. “Shut up.”
She smiles, just for a moment, before sobering. “You’re prepared to fight for him? You know how stubborn he is."
He nods without hesitation. This is something he’s turned over and over in his mind, always reaching the same conclusion. “He fought for me, once upon a time. Put everything on the line for me. Now it’s my turn.”
Hope you enjoy it! Episode One will be hitting Amazon's shelves tomorrow.