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Now and Nevermore

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Tuesdays had two secrets.

The first secret was Julian Cross. Disguised as a patron to the establishment, no one would guess that he was Blake Nichols' friend or that he was there for other reasons besides the mediocre food. He seemed like a regular who couldn’t get his fix of house wine and medium-rare steak. Most considered him unapproachable and unsociable. A facade that befitted him.

Currently, Julian sipped away at his chardonnay and glared at his gloved fingers. They itched, eager to get home and away from public. If only Blake wasn’t taking his precious time. Setting down his drink, Julian huffed and slunk back into his seat. His eyes remained on the fabric that separated his skin from the touch of the table.

Cursed, he bitterly thought to himself. Gifted, some would retaliate if they heard his thoughts. Bullshit. He hated his unique ability: the one that so many in the trade envied him for. Yes, he could kill someone with one touch. Yes, it made his job easier. Yes, it meant he was a danger to everyone around him. That’s what made it harder for him to simply exist in places that didn’t involve the contracted killer business.

Besides animals and plants, Julian wasn’t allowed to touch a living person or else they’d drop dead within seconds. It made for a terribly lonely lifestyle.

“Sir.”

Julian jumped, pulled from his thoughts when Preston slid into the seat across from him. He’d forgotten that he had been waiting. He righted himself. “Preston,” he said evenly as though his driver hadn’t just scared him.

Preston stared at him in response. Then he tilted his head to the side, his eyes sliding to the waiter who stood there patiently.

Oh.

Julian nodded curtly, “I’ll have whatever he’s having,” he gestured to Preston.

Preston visibly rolled his eyes before he apologized to their waiter. After the waiter left, Preston turned his attention back to Julian. “You’re overthinking again,” he commented. “Should I talk to Blake about giving you a night off,” he offered politely. Despite the offer, they both knew it was pointless. Neither Julian nor Preston were in charge of something like that.

“Being alone would make it worse,” Julian replied. He felt out of character as he admitted that to Preston. He wasn’t typically one to talk about himself or his mental state.

Preston shrugged. Then he stood and held out his hand out towards Blake as he neared their table.

“I wish I could do that,” Julian pouted.

Blake eyed him before he snorted. “It’s just a handshake, Julian,” he said. Blake Nichols was both the owner of Tuesdays and Julian’s boss. His personality varied from calm friend to tempered bull depending on how angry you made him. Luckily for everyone, it took a lot to set Blake’s anger ablaze.

The following conversation consisted of reports and negotiations. Of course Julian had succeeded with his most recent assignment: it was hard for him to fail when it came to killing. Most days, Julian prided himself in clean kills. Other days, he indulged himself in a game of cat & mouse so he wouldn’t get bored. And very rarely, he entertained the idea of quitting. Rarely.

“I think you’re right, Preston,” Black addressed. He made sure Julian was looking at him before he continued. “Take the rest of tonight and tomorrow off. You look miserable.”

The definition of Julian Cross: Miserable. Julian laughed sardonically.

Blake stood from their table and smiled at him and Preston. “Good evening, gentlemen,” he bade goodnight and walked off.

Their waiter showed up minutes later with the check and a brimming smile. “I hope you two enjoyed your dinner,” he said. After he handed Preston the check, he leaned forward and began to gather up their finished plates. When Julian tried to help, he shook his head. “Allow me,” he said.

Julian’s heart stopped the moment their fingers brushed.

Any other story and it would have been romantic. Electricity sparked and their eyes met. Julian tensed, breath waiting to be exhaled as they approached the inevitable. Through his peripheral vision, he could see Preston as he watched calmly.

To Julian’s surprise, nothing happened. His waiter simply pulled away and laughed nervously. He apologized and excused himself, promising to return in a moment. The second he was out of ear shot, Julian whipped his head around and stared at Preston as though he were an awestruck teenager. “Preston,” he began.

Preston nodded. He had a knowing look in his eyes. “I saw.”

“He...” Julian couldn’t stop himself as he sputtered, flustered for the first time in years. “He didn’t die!” He exclaimed, giddiness building in his stomach. He could scream. He didn’t. He couldn’t. Not right here. Not now. Upon noticing nearby patrons’ expressions, Julian slunk in his seat.

He was grinning by the time their waiter returned. “Is there anything else I can do for you two,” he asked.

“What’s your name,” Julian asked without missing a beat. He ignored the snort Preston sent his way.

The waiter just blinked. Then he smiled, “Cameron. If you’d like to fill out the survey for a free appetizer next time you come in, you’ll find my name there on the bottom,” he pointed at the receipt.

Cameron. Julian was sure he’d never heard a more beautiful name.

This time Preston didn’t hide his laugh. Julian just nodded. He used to pride himself on eloquence but now he didn't know how to speak. When Cameron left officially, Julian narrowed his eyes at Preston. “Did you know someone worked here who was immune to my touch?”

“No, but Blake did,” Preston shrugged.

 

The second secret was Cameron Jacobs. Fashioned in an all black uniform, he had been promoted to head waiter last year. He was everything in a server: quick, quiet, and discreet. His friends liked to blame it on his height and shyness despite him being of average build. Those jokes were fine with him, he supposed. He preferred them to joke over that than his unique ability.

Scratch that, he wouldn’t necessarily call it unique. He called it a burden. A curse. A reminder that no matter what happened in life, he would still be there. Alive while everyone else crumbled and became dust in the wind. He’d be stuck and-

“I’m going to kill you!” Cameron barely had time to react before his best friend slapped him across the face.

I deserved that. Cameron rubbed his cheek before looking at Miri with apologies already on his tongue. “I thought I dreamt up those texts,” he tried, eyes watching the others workers who came in and out of the kitchen. He worried that they would go tell Blake but then immediately doubted the thought. Blake had just returned to his office, there was no way he was coming out again until it was time to leave.

Miri shoved her phone in front of Cameron’s face. “I was terrified when I woke up to this,” she said. Then her expression softened. “Sorry for hitting you, are you okay?”

Cameron shook his head. “No,” he said honestly. “But work is more important, so...” He flinched at the look she gave him. He worked 60+ hours a week and hadn’t had a good day off in weeks. He was tired and miserable and wanted to sleep. “I promise those texts were just out of being drunk,” he added as his eyes scanned the phone.

In a terribly emotional drunken stupor, Cameron had spammed Miri’s phone with negativity and self-loathing regarding his condition. He couldn’t die. He’d known that about himself since he had been a kid, but the more he grew up the more sad the idea got. He dissociated every time he thought about death but at the same time he dreaded the day that his friends all left him alone.

Sure, he was nowhere near old but the anxiety lingered inside him.

“If you’d said all of this to someone else,” Miri started with a worried look. “Then they would have freaked.”

That was true. Along with those texts, Cameron kept a journal of all the times he’d accidentally died- or almost died. Never on purpose, of course. Miri knew about the journal: Cameron had asked her to fill it out for him on some of the scenarios, much to her dismay.

“Anyways,” Cameron decided he’d had enough of the angst-riddled conversation. “I gave him my name.”

Miri gasped softly. “Him? As in tall, dark, handsome and always writing in the little notepad-”

“Always orders the special and no dessert. Yes,” Cameron finished for her, a smile on his lips. “I forgot to ask for his name but I’m sure he’ll be back. He was with company tonight, anyways.”

“We could ask Blake,” Miri suggested.

“No,” Cameron said. “I’ll get it next time I see him. Though something was strange,” he tilted his head as he thought about their encounter. Everything looked normal, but Cameron hadn’t missed that moment of panic that had flashed through the patron’s eyes. “He looked surprised when I touched him.”

“Maybe he doesn’t like being touched.” That seemed logical enough, Cameron agreed silently. Their fingers had only briefly brushed against each other, but maybe Cameron had accidentally triggered a form of sensory overload.

“Maybe.” Cameron decided he wouldn’t dwell on it too much. Right now they had work to do.