Welcome to Wednesday Briefs, where authors post free fiction of 1000 words or less each week. I used this prompt: “It was a dark and _____ night”
At Full Speed, #9
They ate breakfast in companionable silence. Jake leaned back in the booth, patting his stomach after finishing his meal. “That was really good.”
Bruce’s eyes crinkled. “It looked like you were enjoying yourself. I’m glad you liked breakfast.”
“I’m stuffed.” Jake grinned. When the waitress came by to collect their plates, she topped off their coffees. Jake’s good mood deflated as he considered what he’d promised Bruce earlier. How could he have been so foolish to say he’d talk about what happened— andthe reason why he was so skittish around Bruce—without the aid of alcohol?
“Hey Jake, breathe, okay?”
Jake gulped air for a moment before his breathing normalized. He cast an embarrassed glance at Bruce. “I’m sorry.”
Bruce covered Jake’s left hand with his own and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Do you want to talk here or somewhere more private?”
So Bruce remembered his stupid promise. Maybe he could have someone call him, so he could pretend he had to be somewhere else really urgently? Jake wrinkled his nose and expelled a sigh. Now that would be juvenile, not to mention cowardly. And maybe that’s what Jake really was—a coward. He’d been called a wimp before. Maybe all his clamoring to the contrary was a lot of hot air without any sustenance.
“Jake, I promise I won’t judge you.” Bruce interlaced their fingers but he didn’t squeeze; he just held on. Jake lost himself in the sight of their joined hands. Whereas his hands were pale and delicate, Bruce’s fingers were tanned and thick. The contrast suited them, but Jake’s mind conjured images of his past—there had been similar hands that had inflicted so much pain.
Tears pooled in his eyes, blurring his sight. Bruce pulled his hand away and Jake’s head snapped up. He wiped his eyes as he took a steadying breath, intent on apologizing, or at least on saying anything that wouldn’t chase Bruce away.
Bruce laid money on the table, slid out of the booth, and held out a hand for Jake. “Need a tissue?”
Jake laughed, though it sounded choked to his own ears. “I don’t know.”
“Here.” Bruce handed him a tissue, which Jake used in a brisk fashion. He shoved it into his jeans before he wriggled out of the booth and took Bruce’s offered hand. Together they walked out. “How about a stroll in the park?”
Jake nodded. He gripped Bruce’s hand tightly, for the first time not caring whether someone saw him and objected to their affectionate gesture. Bruce wouldn’t leave his side, he’d protect him. Wouldn’t he?
Jake waited until they passed a busy intersection that ledad right into a small park. The crowd of people that had walked with them dispersed, leaving the illusion of privacy. “If… if someone attacked me, uh, us, would you… would you leave me to fight on my own?”
Bruce’s stop took Jake by surprise. He stumbled into Bruce’s body and yelped. When he gazed into Bruce’s eyes, he swallowed. Bruce’s expression was stony when he answered, “Never, Jake. Not only because I’m a cop, but because you’re bringing out my protective streak. I’m not saying you can’t defend yourself or , but I wouldn’t be able to help myself.”
“Thank you.” Relief flooded Jake’s veins. The tension in his shoulders decreased. As they walked into the park, he added, “This was a good idea. To go into the park, I mean.”
“How about you start talking to me now?”
Jake remained silent for a long time. Could he do this? Where should he start? How much information should he reveal?
Bruce spied an unoccupied bench and guided Jake toward it. They settled on the wooden surface, with their hands still intertwined, but no words left Jake’s mouth. Bruce slid an arm around Jake’s shoulders. In a low-pitched voice, he said, “It was a dark and dreary night and I was alone.”
Jake turned his head to blink at Bruce. He swallowed against the lump in his throat, before he replied in a soft voice, “It wasn’t always night and I wasn’t alone.”