It had become a ritual by now. The right products to reach for while showering with the right scents. The most cursory pass below the shoulders that could be managed and the same between the hips. Clean but with minimal attention though this time followed by a razor. So different from other times, especially ones shared with his girlfriend, all mouth and lips and tongues everywhere. But not tonight. Not yet.
Stepping out of the shower, was more of the same. Drying with the least attention possible before reaching for the other part of him on the counter. He'd have normally left it on but adhesive and hair didn't mix and he needed everything to stay in place now more then ever. Settling everything in place took only a few seconds and brought instant relief. Everything was as it should be, even if a bit more....prominent than usual at the moment.
Anticipation, he thought with a smirk, ideas of later dancing through his head followed by a rush of the anxiety he'd been trying to ignore. Assuming he made it to later. Assuming his girlfriend wanted to make it to later. She could, after all, still run screaming. Not that she would. Not Taylor. She'd probably try anyway and be sweet about it when letting him down saying it wasn't him, it was her and she just wasn't in the mood. But they'd both know. They'd know she only loved him, wanted him, part of the time. And he didn't know if they could survive that.
Needing to distract himself from his thoughts before he reached for the phone and called the whole thing off, he reached for the white cloth instead, tugging it over his head with some difficulty. Wrestling slightly to get everything just so, the cloth resisting the adjustments, he finally felt he'd done what he could and took a few deepish breaths. It was good. Not too tight, no aches in protest, no restricted airflow. This was fine. He'd gone with something designed for sports, just for the extra breathing room, even if it didn't have the same effect. With any luck, he'd need it,.
Looking up, he saw himself. Or mostly himself. The incongruities could be ignored, mostly, if he focused enough on what was right. He ignored he was a little softer than he'd like, even if he loved it the rest of the time. Told himself he's just gotten a good, clean and close shave when not even the slightest drag of stubble slowed his fingertips across his jaw. He was just a guy in his white tank top undershirt, ready for a night out with his girl before he'd even dressed. Grabbing and stepping into his boxer briefs, he did his best to adjust for that. It was one thing to be ready for the night ahead and another for everyone to be able to see it from space.
Walking out into the bedroom, he opened the wardrobe door. He pulled out the crisp white button down hanging up. The act of buttoning from throat to waist, skipping only the first button for to maintain a sense of casual comfort, provided another comforting ritual. They were unlikely to go anywhere too nice. Something familiar in all his anxiety over what was new. The slacks followed, secured by a belt, and he sat on the edge of the bed to slip on and tie his oxfords. The final touch was his jacket, something he straightened and buttoned before looking into the full length mirror. Almost.
He ran a hand through his hair. He had always been in two minds about it. Sometimes he loved it long. a lot of the time. But sometimes he almost craved chopping it all off and seeing what it could become shorter. Tonight, thankfully, was not one of those times. He was more than happy to put a little product through it before slicking it back, a little tighter on the sides to mimic a pompadour, and securing the rest out of the way in a low bun.
He picked up his phone at the dresser and hit the home screen button. She hadn't cancelled. Just a text saying she was downstairs when he was ready. One more deep breath. Well, maybe a couple more. He could do this.
He opened the door, ignoring how his hand shook, and walked down the hall to the stairs. As he took the first step down, he wondered why in the the movies you never saw the prince sweep down the steps. Surely the shot would be just as dramatic? Maybe it was the lack of movement in a suit? But capes existed so that wasn't an excuse.
Hitting the bottom of the stairs literally jolted him from his thoughts. He'd lost count of the steps. Glancing around, he hoped his date hadn't seen. Alas, he had lucked out. Her voice called from the kitchen, “Is that you?”
“No, darling, it's your other boyfriend. Come to steal a moment before your date.” He joked, wincing a little at his own voice. A little high there. Shows what years of voice coaching gets you.
“Just a minute.” Came the response, and he was relieved to hear she sounded a little nervous too. The familiar rhythm of heels echoed slightly as she drew nearer and there was a brief pause, both of them probably taking a breath to steel their nerves, before she rounded the corner and appeared in the doorway.
Neither of them spoke. Just took each other in. Taylor in her classic little black dress, makeup perfectly down with her signature red lip. And him in a suit with open collar. They looked prepared for a night on the town, he thought, though he knew that just wasn't an option. At least this time, there was more than one reason for it. More than one secret at risk.
He watched as Taylor took him in, the way her eyes tracked down his body. The reassuring and pleasing red tint to her cheeks and smile tugging at her lips. Then she paused and soon her teeth were tugging at the lower one instead. It took a second to realize just where she was looking but when he did.....maybe they wouldn't make it to dinner.
“Charlie.” It sounded like realization and recognizing an old friend you hadn't seen in a while, rather than a stilted first meeting. Most of all it sounded warm and accepting, dare he say it, even loving. Just like it did the rest of the time. Unable to resist, he stepped forward and drew her into a kiss. It was every inch the same but completely different. Different points of contact, a different passion, relief and hunger, but still them.
When they broke, she wiped a smudge of red lipstick from his lips and smiled more shy than expected after a kiss like that. “I know we said a dinner date but going out probably isn't a good idea.”
At least she sounds as disappointed as I am.
“But I have wine open and dinner almost ready to be served on the patio and the fire on. And maybe we can make the most of a quiet night in.”
He nodded his agreement and followed her out onto the patio and was instantly touched. The table was set beautifully, the fire going with fairy lights decorating the patio and a playlist of their favourite songs coming from the speakers. They may not have be able to have the big night out, but Taylor had done everything she could to make this special for them...for him. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” Taylor replied, and he could hear the thought unsaid. All of you.
He was going to marry this woman. He knew it.