High Maintenance

He’d called me asking about the card. I didn’t have to try any harder to get his attention I had it now. Now it was only a matter of time before I was coaxing the questions Poet wanted answers to. He deserved every ounce of whatever Poet wanted to dish out. I didn’t feel guilty when I didn’t sit down at the table like I usually did to watch the pretty boy walk past me to get his groceries. I waited across the street at the diner. It was a really good diner considering it was mostly greasy food that went to your waist.

But the milkshake and fries were excellent. I hadn’t tried the pancakes yet, but I had it on my list of things to do on this case. I knew where he was going so I didn’t need to follow him. He’d be in the butchers a few moments and then he’d be off to the market. Timing the situation so he ran into me was not original since I’d already done it once but he just looked at me and stammered an apology. But the only thing on his mind then had been my eyes – not how hot I looked or how he wanted to fuck me. Just my eyes. There was a small amount of fearful thoughts lingering around how much he loved my eyes. I wondered what that had been about.

But he was inside too long. I checked my watch and noted he was running late. I might have to change tactics. Did he go out the back? I took out my phone and hoped I could pick up his cell phone to track him. He’d called and now I had the number and it wasn’t hard to do. I’d had the Wicked Truth show me how so I didn’t have to keep bothering him for trivial things. It had cost me extra but it was well worth it.

He was still inside. I made a bold move and decided to go inside. I opened the door. I could run into him anywhere and it would work. He was coming out as I was going in. I ran into him phone first. I quickly turned my phone off so he didn’t see the tracking software up.

“Funny running into you here.” His face lit up with that grin. Part of me wanted to punch him but the rest of me couldn’t help but smile. And then he bit his bottom lip as he stared into my eyes. “Boris, right? No it was Bob wasn’t it?”

“Haha,” I said, he thought he was funny. But the joke hurt more than it should have.

He grabbed me by the elbow and pulled me off to the side so we weren’t in the way. He was thinking about the butcher and his wife’s business. He seemed to have a big heart – that was going to be easy to manipulate. His thoughts drifted to me and I knew I had him hook, line and sinker. He was mine.

“I need to go get the rest of my groceries.” He said with a smile that I’d seen so many times before, one I had hoped he had reserved only for me, and here he was shining at a stranger. I felt so much more used now than before. He was such a fucking player.

But I put on a well practiced grin and let the act go on. I wanted this favor. “I know.” I said. I felt very much like Han in that moment. Maybe I should shoot first?

“So you have been following me. Why?” Nox asked but there was no hint of anger in his voice or his thoughts. He really didn’t care that I was.

“Why do you think?” I laughed. I wanted to hear this.

“Honestly, no clue. But I do need to get walking, you going to follow me there?” He asked like he didn’t know the answer already.

“Why would I want to do that?” I said sarcastically.

His shoulders went up in a shrug and said “I don’t know that either.”

I knew a lot about him, but I didn’t know what he actually bought so I peeked inside and sitting on top was steak. Not cheap steak either, it was a beautiful piece of meat. “I might follow you home if you’re cooking any of that.”

And there was that grin again. Fuck if he couldn’t kill me with it. “You can walk with me and I’ll cook dinner for you.”

I faked surprise and happiness. Though if he was cooking steak then as long as he didn’t ruin it I was game. “I suppose I could endure that. But isn’t lunch next?”

He didn’t answer my question. Fucker. He opened the door and I had no choice but to follow. Or… I rushed ahead, not that it was that far, and opened the door for him. He grinned at me again, “How gentlemanly. I’ll drop my groceries off, go for a run then grab lunch on the way back. I could skip my run and cook but..” the sentence trailed off but his thoughts did not. He didn’t want me to find out about his neurosis about structure. Not that I didn’t know that already from his timely departures and arrivals. Everything was perfectly timed.

And I also knew he was fitness nut. He ran everyday at the same time, twice a day. I thought I liked running. “Don’t tell me you need to run off extra calories.” I gave him a good once over before looking at my watch to check the time, he was almost back on schedule. “I could think of other ways you could work off extra calories.”

He blushed. What the fuck? Did I just make the player uncomfortable or was he playing shy to get in my pants. From the sound of his thoughts he was acting out of character. I threw him, and I liked that fact very much. I could use it to my advantage.

He stared at me while we walked, but he forced himself to look away. He was doubting himself and wondering if I was a telepath. I could read his thoughts. Now was the time to make the move. “All this food for your boyfriend?” I was pretty sure that there were no girls in his life, but there were plenty of guys he was cozy with.

I mean I watched him on the dance floor with girls plenty of times, Poet had more videos of that than I could count, and I’d see it for myself. But those were nothing – he never kept their numbers and he never saw them again. Never slept with the same girl.

He blurted out, “I don’t date.”

“So what was the other night, you were just looking for a quick fuck?” I shouldn’t be so hurt by the fact that he had wanted sex. But it wasn’t that it was sex he wanted at the club but he had just wanted sex. He wasn’t looking for Mr. Right. I don’t know why it bothered me so much.

“I…” he stammered and after a moment he shrugged, “I’m sorry, but yeah.” He apologized…

“So dinner is just a means to get in my pants?” I surprised myself with the bite in my words despite the smirk I knew I wore.

“No!” he shouted gaining a few disgusted looks as people walked the other way from us overheard. He continued in a lower voice, “No, I… It’s just me cooking for you.” And there was nothing but truth in his voice, his thoughts were a mess, he was racing in so many directions.

“So now you don’t want to fuck me?” I asked confused. He was such a mess. I don’t think the dreams even hit close when he was with me there. He didn’t answer me instead turned back around and went down the alley and leaned against the wall. I watched as he slid down the wall and dropped his head against the wall. His thoughts grew more tangled as the seconds passed.

“You drive me fucking nuts, Alex.”

Now he remembers my name. “You remember my name?” I joked. I knew he remembered it. But it still stung after all these years.

“Of course I remember your name. How could I forget it?” And he kept making the past hurt even more.

I growled out. “I don’t know, I’ve known people to forget a lot of things in a short period of time.” He’d forgotten me too many times to count.

“Who ever wants to forget you is an idiot.” He sighed. I wasn’t sure if it was in frustration or something else. But his thoughts were a mess as he breathed in through his nose and out through his mouth. Classic calming techniques. I was going to have to raise my price if Poet wanted me to deal with this shit. But I couldn’t help but feel bad for him. He looked in pain, like his body hurt. I tried to make out something in his head something to help or hurt or just something. And then I heard the voice telling him. This isn’t him. He’ll be so jealous. There was venom in his reply to himself. He’s the one who didn’t show up.

Was he talking about me? Dream me. I showed up goddammit. His anxiety was making me crazy. “You okay pretty boy?” I asked.

He nodded and then stood up. “Yeah.” He didn’t look okay, but he continued. “Sorry. This is me. Anxiety is my very own personal demon.” And then he walked away from me – again. What the fuck, that was my move. I was getting tired of chasing him. But Poet was making this worth my while. I guess that favor meant more than the dealing with this shit.

But he looked broken, dejected as he walked ahead. I caught up, “I was only joking about the getting in my pants thing.” We walked a few more steps and I tried to change the subject, “But why don’t you date?” I mean he was a hot guy, he could have any one he wanted – and I mean anyone.

His response surprised me. “I tried once. Guy used me. But he’s not the reason, had a guy stand me up.”

“I know that feeling.” I growled. He stood me up not the other way around. Fucking emergencies – yeah right. “No girlfriends?” I asked to make sure I covered all my bases. Poet would want to know.

“Never. I’m not that into girls.” he said plainly.

“Really? So the dancing and sex on the dancefloor was just, what? Accidental? You were dancing and accidentally fucked them too? Oops, sorry about that, my dick just slipped in there,” I mocked him. Really he had to be into girls, he sure as hell fucked a lot of them. I wasn’t sure why that made me anymore jealous than before.

He smirked, “Yeah? You think I could get away with that? Oops sorry, slipped!” He rolled his eyes and continued with a grin though his words were serious, “I admire women. I enjoy their body, their curves, their softness. But I could never give my heart to a woman. No point in dating her when I know for a fact I’d be miserable.” He winked at me, “And they are missing my favorite part of the body.” And the truth of the whole conversation was that he was gay. He didn’t identify that way in his head but he knew that sleeping with women was only about sex. There was nothing but sex with a woman. I saw thoughts of abandonment but nothing concrete to go on. He’d had mommy issues when we were younger, he was still harboring those same feelings even after her death. Probably more so now than before.

He was just as easy to read here as he was in the dream. I thought Venatori had good shields. But I was getting distracted in his head. Wasn’t exactly sure how he functioned at all with that tangled mess. He liked men… I was a man. I looked down and then back up with a smirk on my face.

He laughed. “Yeah you got it.” And he smiled that fucking smile… Why the fuck did he have to do that.

He nodded down the street where the open market was. “Got a few things here to pick up.”

I knew that. I pulled my lips in mild amusement. I had to bit my tongue not to repeat myself again. I knew his schedule almost as well as he did.

“Am I amusing you?” He asked.

“You are.” Nox stopped in front of stall and I stood behind him until the crowd pushed me closer to him. I could smell him – the real him a soft smokey scent but mostly it was just clean no real fragrance what-so-ever. I remembered being this close to him before, I wanted to put my hand on his hip to pull him against me. I wanted to fuck him, I knew it was just lingering memories. He had me digging in my head too far.

I reached out and put my hand on his hip, the hem of his t-shirt was under my fingers and I thought about shoving my hand underneath. I felt him shudder beneath my fingers and he gasped, “Please don’t.”

I stopped moving. Had he heard my thought. I hadn’t been paying attention to the conversation just the feeling of the man in front of me. He leaned back against my chest and whispered, “Wasn’t talking to you.”

I pushed him away from me, he stumbled a few feet as I walked away while he finalized his business. I walked ahead and waited looking at the items at the next booth. It wasn’t anything interesting more of the same as the booth Nox shopped at. It made me wonder why he shopped at specific booths, and why he never actually did the shopping himself. “Do you always have an order ahead of time?”

“I get the same thing every week with little variation.”

I wondered why, I didn’t think I asked it outloud but he answered anyway.
“It’s easier that way.” He didn’t want to elaborate and I didn’t think it was important. Poet wasn’t going to manipulate his eating habits. He broke me from my thought with a laugh then asked, “Where to now?”

What? I must have looked as confused as I really was because he continued “You’ve been following me for weeks. So what do I do next?”

He knew I’d been following him. He’d pretty much said he knew that before why was it bothering me now. I had to rack my brain for the answer. If he hadn’t said anything I would have know the answer. “The grocery store for things you can’t get here I guess. You have everything else.”

We walked in silence. His mind started to churn again which was making me feel anxious so I took his hand in mine and tried to pull him out of his thoughts. “Why didn’t you talk to me before?”

He shrugged. “I’d probably not be talking to you now if you didn’t run into me.” I felt the truth in his words. I was inconsequential on his radar and it hurt.

“Why not? Too good for me?”

He sighed, “Because you didn’t look like you wanted company, ” and pulled his hand from mine. I hoped it was just to open the door but then he kept walking ahead of me. He was losing his cool.

I didn’t mean to say it so bitterly, “You mean kinda like you look right now?” but that was how it came out.

“I…” He sighed. “I like your company, but you seem to get annoyed at everything so…”

So what? But he felt so pitiful and lost in his head. He hated himself, and I wasn’t helping matters any.

“I’m sorry.” I apologized, “You just remind me of someone. A bad memory.”

A wry smile splayed across his lips as he spoke, “I know the feeling.” But his thoughts were off in the distance remembering. Or trying not to remember. We were both trying to forget the same thing. And being here with each other was making all those feelings and memories come to the forefront. We both stayed in our own thoughts as he grabbed his groceries.

As we stood in the checkout line he asked, “You mind a late lunch, early dinner. I have friends coming over after the sun goes down, they’ll play poker and try to get me to play with them, which you are more than welcome to join, but I kinda want to cook for you just me and you.”

“A date?” I asked sceptically.

“I wouldn’t call it that.” Nox shrugged. His mind was line a sieve, leaking out all the anxiety and hatred and chaos.

He was so fucking high maintenance! I pasted on a smirk and teased him, “Sounds like a date to me.” Poet definitely wasn’t paying me enough.

There was hope and exasperation in his voice. “Fine, call it a date. You wanna stop by at 3?”

I looked at my phone, opened the calendar and pretended that I had something else going on. But my schedule was wide open, I only had to worry about Janice calling in for some sub care because she utterly sucked at it, but I was free. “Yeah, I’ll have to rearrange a client but I can make three.”

“Great.” He said then bit his bottom lip. I wanted to do that for him. Old memories were hard to shake. And I’d truly wanted to do more back at that last stall. He continued, never noticing how my train of thought had gone straight to my cock. “I’m sure you have better things to do than follow me around shopping. I mean you were walking into the butchers when you ran into me.”

“Ah fuck!” I growled. I didn’t have any business but it was part of the show “See what you do to me?” I winked at him to add to the allure. “I’ll see you at 3 pretty boy.” I leaned in and kissed his cheek then winked again before I headed off the way we’d come. I felt like a school boy leaving his boyfriend for the first time. I was happy in a way that I shouldn’t be but his fading thoughts as i walked away made it all that much better. I listened to the voice in his head that said fuck he was hot! Until I could no longer hear him through the din of other peoples voices.

I had a few hours to kill before I headed his direction. There was only one slight problem. I didn’t know which apartment was his. But I’d worry about that later. I needed to clear my own head – distract my mind. Get him out of my head. He was such a mess.

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My name is Nox Sétanta. I am first and foremost a fictional character escaped from the mind of my creator AJ. In layman's terms I'm a magic wielding monster hunter born to my human mother and my Venatori father.