Different Tracks – Part 15

Welcome back to the Round Robin! If you haven’t read yet, you might want to catch here first:

Part 1 (Sophie Bonaste) ◊ Part 2 (Brynn Stein) ◊ Part 3 (Grace Duncan) ◊ Part 4 (Suki Fleet) ◊ Part 5 (Elizabeth Noble)

◊ Part 6 (Kim Fielding) ◊ Part 7 (Sophie Bonaste) ◊ Part 8 (Charlie Cochet) ◊ Part 9 (Sophie Bonaste) ◊ Part 10 (Brynn Steinn)

 ◊ Part 11 (Grace Duncan) ◊ Part 12 (Suki Fleet) ◊ Part 13 (Elizabeth Noble) ◊ Part 14 (Kim Fielding)

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Part 15

Xander stared at the ceiling, trying to convince himself to get out of bed. His head had long since healed, so he had no problems with that. He just didn’t want to possibly face another day.

Another day with flirty text messages. Another day where Peter might show up at the shop. The first time he’d done that, Xander had nearly cut his own thumb off.

He’d been doing well up until that point. He’d responded to the first message, which had been simple enough—just a “hi” and that was it. He should have guessed it wouldn’t stay at that.

They stayed relatively basic for a while—how are you, how’s work, that sort of thing—and he guessed that’s why he’d been so surprised when Peter hit him with the question. He’d stared at the message for a solid ten minutes before shoving it back into his apron and went back to work. He wasn’t even sure how Peter had gotten his number until he checked his call log and saw Peter had called himself at some point while Xander had passed out.

A little sneaky and underhanded, maybe, but Xander had to admit he actually could appreciate that.

What he wasn’t sure he could appreciate was the fact that Peter seemed determined not to take “hook-ups only” seriously.  He’d hoped by the end of his shift, that maybe, just maybe, he’d imagined that last message.

Would you go out to dinner with me?

What the hell was he supposed to say to that? Xander wasn’t someone guys took out on dates. He thought he’d been clear about that to Peter. So, he did the only thing he could think to do. He ignored it.

Unfortunately, it didn’t have the effect Xander had hoped. Peter sent another message later that night.

I know you got the other one. Just think about it. I’m serious. Go out to dinner with me.

Xander hoped the wording meant he wouldn’t have to reply. He still didn’t know what to say. He underestimated his… friend? Lover? He didn’t know. Peter. He underestimated Peter.

The next day, he’d been finishing wrapping up the steak bones for old Mrs. Nelson’s dogs and working on the cuts for the steak itself when he looked up to see Peter grinning at him from the other side of the meat counter. He’d blinked in shock at Peter, and only by some sense of inner preservation did he yank his hand away before the knife landed on his thumb.

“Oh, don’t damage that! Your hand’s way too important,” Peter said, grin widening.

Is he teasing me? Xander blinked at him then refocused on Mrs. Nelson’s steaks. When he’d finished up with her, he turned back to Peter. “Hi.” Brilliant Xander. But maybe Peter would see that and remember Xander wasn’t in his league and stop this ridiculous… whatever.

“Hi yourself. You didn’t answer my question.”

“Uh… which question was that?” he asked, then winced. That was too much, even for him. “I didn’t know what to say,” he tried to explain, but even he knew it was lame.

“Hmm, well, there are really only a few answers you could give. I’m really hoping you’ll lean toward the one that means ‘yes’ though.”

Xander blinked and frowned. “I don’t—“

“Yeah, we’ve been over that. Let’s try something new, hmm? It’s just a date. I’m not proposing marriage. I’m not asking you to move in and be my partner.” He paused and Xander could have sworn the man muttered ‘yet’ but couldn’t be sure. There was no way he was going to contemplate that. “I’m just suggesting we go have a meal together.”

Xander frowned. Truth be told, that really wasn’t all that much. He could handle dinner and hope that once Peter saw how badly he handled dating, he’d be left alone.

“Okay. Sure. Dinner.”

The way Peter’s face lit up at that did funny things to Xander’s stomach and heart. “Great! How about…” he paused. “How about Wednesday night?”

Xander found himself nodding without conscious thought. “Okay.”

“Cool. See you then!” Peter shot him another grin, then left.

Xander was still standing there, staring at the place Peter had been when Ralph came up to him a little while later.

“Xan!” Ralph said, shaking his keys in front of his face.

Xander blinked and looked over at his friend. “Oh, hi. Sorry.”

“’Sup, man?”

“Uh… I just… agreed to go on a date,” he mumbled, shaking his head.

“That’s a bad thing?” Ralph asked, looking completely confused.

Xander shrugged a shoulder. “I don’t know yet. Uh, did you get it fixed?”

Ralph nodded. “Yeah, nothing too difficult. Just some adjustments. Here you go,” he said, handing the keys over.

“Thanks, man. I owe you one,” Xander said, tucking his keys in his pocket.

Ralph grinned. “Don’t worry about it. Helping you got me some serious brownie points from Annie. She now thinks I’m the sweetest thing for helping a friend.”

“Dude, that is too easy,” Xander said, shaking his head. “I wish guys were that easy,” he muttered, turning back to his work.

Ralph snorted. “We’re easier, are you kidding? Steak and sex. That’s all we need. Maybe beer. But really. Steak and sex.”

Xander wasn’t too sure of that. He thought of Peter’s grin, thought of the way Peter spoke, and the beautiful house the man lived in. Peter certainly deserved more than that. And Xander knew he didn’t have the ability to give it to him.

He sighed, wondering what he’d gotten himself into. Maybe he ought to cancel. Maybe he ought to save Peter the trouble of a horrible date and the need to tell him they were better off as friends.

Xander took his phone out of his pocket to do just that when it vibrated and the text message icon popped up. Frowning, he opened it to see it was from Peter.

Can’t wait until Wednesday night. Looking forward to seeing you, X. Have a great rest of the day.

Well, shit. He couldn’t very well cancel after that, could he? He tapped the screen in the little box to send a reply and paused.

He didn’t know what to say to that. Everything that came to mind sounded ridiculous. But the only things that didn’t were lies. And for all Xander wanted out of this, wanted to stop tormenting both of them, he couldn’t do that, either.

With a sigh, he tapped out, I can’t wait too. Have a good day too. And left it at that.

 * * *

He’d thought that by agreeing to the date and replying, Peter would leave it alone. But he didn’t. He kept sending messages all day Tuesday, as well. Mostly, they were just friendly, with a hi or wish for a good day. One was a reminder of their date—like Xander could forget it. One was just, thinking of you, which confused Xander all to hell. What was so special about him that Peter would be thinking of him?

And here it was, Wednesday morning. They were supposed to go out that night. Xander had no idea where they’d go or what they’d do. And if Peter kept texting him, he was pretty sure he’d just be a candidate for the State Hospital before the end of the day instead of their date.

His phone alarm went off, reminding him he should be on his way out the door instead of still in bed. With a sigh, he got up and headed for the shower, reminding himself it was one more day. After tonight, Peter would get it and leave him alone.

He refused to wonder why that didn’t comfort him like he thought it should.

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