When they saw each other again they were in Los Angeles; the sky starless, the night slow and mild.
Aidan had dyed his head, a deep brown like summer-baked mud, carelessly groomed for the occasion. Charlie’s stare was good-natured, long and curious.
“Stop fuckin’ lookin’ at it,” Aidan huffed, resisting the urge to run his hand through the messy locks again. He quickly took strong, brief draws from his cigarette, exhaling through the mouth to huff once more.
“Didn’t mean to,” Charlie shrugged, only half-lying. Abandoning the atrocious hair, he eyed the lit fag between Aidan’s fingers. “I thought you’d quit.”
Aidan turned to look at him, and then down to his cigarette. “S’just for tonight.”
“Dunno, just felt like it,” he perched it between his lips, “Want some?”
Charlie didn’t smoke much these days, not when he had to get in shape. It made him feel sick in the gym, like his lungs wouldn’t catch up with the rest of him.
“Yeah,” he replied instead, extending a hand to pluck out the offer from Aidan’s mouth.
The taste and smoke enveloped him like a warm, bitter blanket, akin to the embrace he’d longed for ever since his and Aidan’s paths had crossed again.
“I don’t really smoke,” Charlie said, handing over the cigarette back to Aidan. Their fingers brushed, and Charlie felt an electric spark that wasn’t there.
Aidan’s smile was crooked and incredulous. “Bit too late for that,” he flicked the still-burning butt out the motionless car’s window.
Charlie’s gaze followed the disappearing ember and then Aidan’s hand; followed its every movement and traced his every line, openly and intently until the older’s lips twitched into a pout. Charlie was asking a silent question with his sea rover-blue eyes, one that Aidan didn’t have the answer for.
“Forget it,” Aidan sighed.
If only he knew how hard Charlie had tried.
“One,” Charlie started, “One kiss.”
Aidan cocked his brows at him. “And then what?”
“I don’t know, nothin’,” Charlie answered truthfully, “I just miss you. Miss missing you now and then.”
“It’s not gonna be enough, Charlie,” Aidan said matter-of-factly, leaning back in his seat.
“It is, just for tonight.”
“If I kiss you now, we’ll fuck, then I leave, and we won’t see each other again for years. I can’t live like that.”
“You can. You have.”
Aidan managed a wan smile. “Can you?”
Charlie frowned, worrying his bottom lip. “No,” he murmured, “But I’m willing to.”
He took Aidan’s hand and brought it to his lips, kissing the knuckles, smelling the tobacco.
Aidan didn’t object. Not then, not when Charlie sucked two fingers into his mouth, not when Charlie’s beard scratched his neck, not even when Charlie’s blunt nails dug into his back.
They made love; not sex, but love; though sex would have been so much wiser.
And then, Charlie said it. Aidan said it right back. Just those three words, said and meant. ‘I love you’. They were quite hopeless. But they were enough, just for that one night.