“It’s just dinner! Anyone would think I’m asking you to jump off a bridge or something.”
“The answer is still no.”
“So that’s it, just ‘no’? You don’t give a damn that it’s important to me,” Connor pointed out. “You can be such a prat sometimes.”
“Says the person who’s sulking like an immature kid because he can’t have his own way.”
Connor stood up so that he was face to face with Danny. “Well if I’m too immature for you, why the hell are you with me?”
“Right now, I’m asking myself that very question,” Danny retorted, his voice raised.
“So go! I’m not stopping you.”
“Maybe I will,” Danny snapped. “I really don’t need this shit.”
“Fine!” Connor yelled.
Danny stalked toward the door and glared back over his shoulder. “Goodbye, Connor.” He stormed out and slammed the door behind him.
Abby heard the raised voices nearby and then the slam of a door. She frowned, marking her page in the book she was reading and going to see what was happening. It sounded as though the commotion had come from Connor’s office.
When he didn’t reply, she let herself in.
“Oh, Connor, what’s happened?” she asked, hurrying over to where her best friend sat at his desk, arms folded on his desk and his face buried in them.
Connor looked up, his eyes looking suspiciously red. The miserable expression on his face made her lean in to give him an impulsive hug.
“Tell me what the matter is,” she asked again.
Connor sniffled, swiping at his eyes quickly.
“I think he dumped me.”
So, it had been Danny that she’d heard; she had thought that it had been his voice, even though she hadn’t caught the words, and now Connor had confirmed it. This had been the last thing she had expected him to say, though. Connor and Danny had been together for months and they seemed happy. Obviously not, she thought. Unfortunately, when she asked Connor about it, he wouldn’t tell her any more. He just dropped his head back into his arms on the desk.
By the end of the day, Connor still had barely said two words to her. She tried to get him to talk, or take him out to cheer him up but he said he just wanted to go home. Giving up, Abby took him home.
The following day wasn’t much better. The atmosphere around the ARC was uneasy. Danny had called in sick that morning and everyone kept asking Connor what was wrong with him, expecting him to know. In the end, Connor retreated to his office and refused to come out except to deal with the anomaly that opened briefly in the city. He was convinced that the other man wasn’t sick at all, and he was hurt that Danny was going to such lengths to avoid him
By the time they left that evening, Abby couldn’t take seeing him miserable any more and decided that he was going to stop hiding whether he liked it or not.
“Come on, Connor,” she said, handing him his jacket. “I think you need a drink.”
Maybe a drink hadn’t been the best idea, she mused, some six shots and three hours later. At present, Connor was up on the stage, a microphone in his hand, drunkenly singing along to the karaoke. He looked as though he was about to burst into tears at any minute as he warbled,
‘If you ever leave,
baby you would take away everything that’s good in my life.
And tell me now, how do I live without you…’
She had managed to get him to tell her about the fight the previous evening. Over a tub of his favourite comfort food of choc-chip ice cream, Connor had told her everything.
“I just wanted him to meet mum,” Connor had said, staring miserably at his spoon. “She wants to meet him, and she’s coming to see me with dad in a few days. I just wanted him to come too.” He’d looked up at Abby, confusion in his eyes. “He didn’t even think about it, just refused. I don’t know why, I mean, it’s just dinner with my mum and dad.”
Abby had found her anger at Danny subsiding slightly. Sure, she was still mad at him for upsetting her best friend, but now she was beginning to wonder if Connor hadn’t overreacted. Glancing up at the stage again, where Connor was still singing, she made a decision. Scrolling through the numbers on her phone, she called him.
Abby frowned. “Becker? What are you doing with Danny’s phone?”
There was a sigh on the other end.
“Because Danny’s ignoring it,” Becker told her. “I came to check on him after I left work and found him like this. From the look of him, I’d say he slept on the sofa in the same clothes he’s wearing now. I don’t suppose you have any idea what’s happened, do you?”
Abby filled him in on the argument. “Connor thinks Danny dumped him.”
“That explains a lot; Danny mumbled something about ‘mums’ but not a whole lot else- Where are you? And what is that god-awful noise?”
“That would be Connor,” Abby said. “Listen.”
She held up the phone to the direction of the stage, where Connor was.
‘And tell me now
How do I live, without you? I want to know…
How do I breathe, without you?...
If you ever go, how do I ever, ever survive…?’
“That’s the result of three hours of tequila and karaoke,” she told Becker.
Becker made a sympathetic sound. “I suppose I should be grateful Danny’s not singing. He’s just sitting here, not talking to me, miserable as hell.”
“We need to do something,” she said.
“Agreed.” Becker didn’t even hesitate. “We’re at Danny’s place; bring him over.”
Abby got the address and then slipped her phone back in to her pocket. She waited until Connor’s song ended and made her way to the stage, relieving Connor of the microphone and handing it back to the DJ.
“Come on, Conn, time to go.”
He shook his head. “Don’t want to go home yet.”
“We’re not going home,” she promised, steering him around the tables, his coat under one arm and propping Connor up with the other. Once they got to the door, she handed him his jacket and made him put it on. “We’re going somewhere else.”
Connor gave her a faint smile and hugged her. “You’re the best, Abbs. ‘Least you still want me around.” His smile faded as he remembered the reason he was here in the first place. “Why doesn’t he want me any more?”
Abby hugged him back and then led him to her car, pushing him into the passenger seat.
By the time they got to Danny’s flat, Connor had sobered up a little. She had made him drink a bottle of water and eat the cereal bar she had in her bag, and now he got out and followed her silently inside when Becker opened the door.
Taking Connor by the hand, she followed Becker into the lounge where Danny sat on the couch. He had a bottle of beer in one hand and a few empties littering the table in front of him. He was in a worse state than Connor at present. When he saw them approach, his slightly unfocussed gaze landed on Connor, a hopeful expression in his eyes.
“Abby, I want to go now,” Connor whispered, eyeing Danny and then looking around as though only just realising where he was. “Please don’t make me do this; he doesn’t want me here.”
Abby could feel his hand shaking and cast an apologetic look to Becker before taking Connor out into the hall to speak to him. She could see Danny’s dismay as Connor left the room again.
“Conn, please, give him a chance.”
She saw Connor look up at something over her shoulder.
“Connor?” Danny stood in the doorway. “I’m sorry. I don’t blame you if you don’t want to talk to me but I didn’t mean it and I’m sorry.”
Abby gave Connor a nudge, sending him toward Danny as she went to sit with Becker, checking to make sure that Connor hadn’t turned and run away.
“You think they’ll sort it out?” Becker asked. “Because I’m not sure how much more I can take of Danny sulking.”
“Well, you got him drunk.”
Becker rolled his eyes. “He did that all by himself.”
“It was nice of you to come by and make sure he was OK.”
Becker shrugged his shoulders, smiling. “He’s a mate.” Glancing up at the two men, he laughed. “I don’t think we need to worry about the pair of them any longer,” he said.
Abby looked over to see Connor wrapped tightly in Danny’s arms, locked in a passionate kiss.
“I think that’s our cue to leave,” Abby said, getting up.
The following morning, Connor sat at the table in Danny’s kitchen. The coffee had woken him up a bit and the headache tablets were starting to kick in, but that meant it was time to actually talk. That was the part he was dreading.
“I really am sorry,” Danny said eventually. “I shouldn’t have gone off on one like that, especially not at work.”
“Me too. I was being stupid and-”
“I’ll meet your mum and dad if it means that much to you but-”
“But what?” Connor asked, seeing the uncharacteristic doubt in Danny’s eyes.
“What if they don’t like me? They won’t approve- I’m older than you.” Danny paused. “They don’t know I arrested you, do they? Oh, God- I’m the guy who put their son in a jail cell and now I’m sleeping with him. They’re going to hate me.”
Connor reached over and gripped Danny’s hand on top of the table. “They know all about you and they’re fine with it,” he said. “But if you really don’t want to meet them, then I won’t make you.”
Danny nodded. He knew that Connor meant it and that just made his mind up. “OK, but make it somewhere public,” he joked. “Just in case.”