“I wish you wouldn’t.”
Todd rolls his eyes; he doesn’t want to have this conversation again. Rather than replying, he takes another drag on the cigarette in his hand and pretends not to hear.
“I know you’re listening, Todd. You’ve got rather expressive eyes.”
Said eyes are closed. “We have this discussion at least twice a week, Dirk. I don’t stop you eating honestly concerning levels of candy, and you can’t stop me from smoking.”
“It’s hardly the same!” Dirk exclaims, brow furrowed. “Sweets don’t give you cancer. And they don’t taste as bad when we kiss.”
“That’s because you don’t taste it,” Todd chuckles, but the other man doesn’t return it, instead turning away. Dirk is near-pouting at his Sudoku now, and Todd would be lying if he said it didn’t make his chest feel tight. He hates that there is this rift between them, as a result of a stupid habit he picked up as an angry teen. He hates that Dirk won’t kiss him properly sometimes, and that the Brit makes a face at the slightest whiff of cigarette smoke in his hair. Clearly, he doesn’t hate it enough to stop, though. The thought stirs up guilt in his stomach. He takes another drag, as though the burning in his lungs will distract him.
Dirk frowns deeper. “It’ll kill you, you know.”
“Thank you for the unnecessary reminder of my impending doom. I’m sure if the cigarettes don’t get me, your driving will,” Todd quips back, pretending to scan Twitter in favour of avoiding Dirk’s hurt gaze.
“I mean it, Todd. They can make you really sick. It’s a horrible thing. I can show you pictures-”
“Dirk, stop.” The other man falls silent. “I know it’s bad, alright? I know. I’ve tried to quit, and it doesn’t work. I let you have your habits, let me have mine. Drop it. Please.” He hates snapping at Dirk as much as he hates the wounded look on his boyfriend’s face.
The air hangs heavy between them, as acrid as the smoke trailing from between Todd’s fingers. He stubs the cigarette out.
Dirk glances up briefly, but his gaze doesn’t stay. It drops to his lap, instead, fixed on the red checkered pattern of his private-school pyjamas and mismatched socks. “Todd.”
“All the shit you give me for smoking, yet you’re out here at five in the goddamn morning to have a cigarette yourself?” Todd can’t help the harshness of his tone, the annoying whine that sneaks into his impression of Dirk. “‘Look at these pictures, Todd,’ ‘You’re going to die, Todd,’ ‘It tastes bad when we kiss, Todd.’ The endless guilt trips, the damn nicotine patches, and you haven’t even quit yourself. You absolute hypo-“
That stops Todd in his tracks. “Wait, what? Who?”
“Riggins.” Dirk’s voice is hollow, and Todd can’t read anything into the tone. His eyes, though, are less impenetrable. Todd slides to sit next to him with a whumph, hissing slightly as his bare thighs touch the almost-icy metal.
The silence passes between them. Todd waits until Dirk is ready to speak, and distracts himself watching the tendrils of smoke that drift into the early morning sun of Seattle.
“I think it’s my fault.”
Todd shakes his head, and reaches to place a cold hand on Dirk’s flannel-clad forearm, gently stroking the fabric in what he hopes is comforting. “Don’t be silly.”
“I’m not. They shot him because I escaped. It’s definitely my fault.”
There’s not much of an answer to that. Todd can’t deny it in good faith, because he supposes there’s an element of responsibility there. A tiny one, but still. He shuffles closer, and Dirk allows it. “Then it’s mine too. I helped. I took the keys and flipped the bird at the security cameras; if you’re at fault, so am I.”
Dirk lets a little sigh escape his lips, unhappy but resigned. “Alright.”
The silence is back, and Todd fixes his gaze on the smoke again. The cigarette is near burned out, its embers inching dangerously close to Dirk’s pale fingers. He reaches out and gently removes it, taking a drag for himself instead. The nicotine patch on his upper arm seems to burn, as though to protest, but Todd ignores it and blows out the smoke with ease. Dirk has moved closer, now, enough that Todd can smell smoke in his hair and assume this is not the first cigarette of the day. It takes a moment, but Dirk lets his head rest on Todd’s shoulder. He doesn’t mention it, but Todd can feel the dampness of tears as they escape Dirk’s cheek to fall on his own skin instead.
“I know- I know it’s fucked up,” Dirk fumbles, voice slightly rough from smoke. It sounds foreign compared that crisp accent of his, and Todd wants to kiss the words away. The heat of the cigarette is creeping closer each second. “He was not a good man. He- He hurt me, sort of, kept me locked away like no child should be.”
Todd refrains from voicing his own thoughts on the man. He has no issue speaking ill of the dead, but it’s not the time. Not when Dirk is crying on his shoulder.
“But he was the closest thing to a dad I had left.” Dirk’s voice breaks on dad, and Todd’s heart breaks right at the same time. They’re so in sync it hurts. He lets the cigarette drop to the pavement three floors below, and Dirk doesn’t admonish him for littering, for once. Todd lets an arm slip around Dirk’s waist, gently drawing circles there with his thumb.
“I’m going to miss him.” Another tear finds its way down Todd’s shoulder, and even he has to swallow a lump in his throat. He’s not mourning Riggins, but Dirk is hurting and that’s enough.
“I’m so sorry.”
“Me too,” Dirk murmurs, but Todd knows it isn't meant for him.
A bird chirps above them, and the sun is starting to make its appearance behind cotton-candy clouds. A chocolate-box scene for a bittersweet moment.
“Please tell me you’ll stop.”
A statement, not a question. Todd doesn’t need to ask what he means. His lungs feel tight from something other than tar. “Dirk, you’re upset, we don’t need to fight now-“
“I can’t lose you.”
Todd suppresses a snide remark that he doesn’t smoke that much, that he’s fine, that Dirk shouldn’t be using this as leverage. He stays quiet, and presses a small kiss to Dirk’s hair.
It might be a lie. After all, that’s what Todd does best. He might light up as soon as Dirk’s gone to get milk, or on his lunch break, or in the middle of the night. He might not even try to stop because why bother?
But somewhere, heavy in his chest, Todd thinks it might be different this time. This time, he has something to lose.