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Unrequited, Page 2

Abigail Roux

  “Talk to you soon, man,” Owen said as he prepared to

  hang up.

  “Is that Vic?” Vic heard Shane’s distant voice ask.

  “Yeah,” Owen answered.

  “Let me talk to that bastard,” Shane demanded, and Owen

  handed over the phone without another word. “Vic!” Shane’s

  voice boomed into Vic’s ear, making him wince and grin at the

  same time.

  Shane had grown up on the South Carolina coast, near

  Charleston, whereas Vic was a displaced Yankee from upstate

  New York. When Vic had first met Shane, he’d kept asking him

  questions just to hear him answer them in his genteel, coastal

  Southern accent. Vic didn’t even know how to describe the

  accent, other than it was a strange and wonderful thing that

  sounded like something out of Gone with the Wind. He only

  pronounced his R’s if they were followed by vowels. He made

  words with two syllables into words with five. He drawled and

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  spoke slowly enough that you hung on every word waiting for

  the next. Vic absolutely loved to hear Shane speak. Everything

  he said sounded both classy and antiquated at the same time.

  Even if he was cussing a blue streak as he watched baseball.

  “Hello, my shiny thing!” Shane said happily. “I thought I

  told you to leave Owen out of this. It was just going to be you

  and me and a romantic moonlit dinner at Subway,” Shane

  mused teasingly as Owen sniggered.

  Vic snorted in amusement.

  “Candles, wine, squirty vinegar,” Shane continued in a

  grand manner. “Groping in the bathroom. Turn here, kid.

  Aphrodisiacs of your choice. I tell you what, buddy boy,” he

  said to Owen without taking the phone from his mouth. “A

  handful of M&Ms and Vic will follow you anywhere.”

  Vic was laughing silently and trying to catch his breath

  without letting Shane know that he was actually laughing. That

  was true, really. Give Vic chocolate and he was yours for the

  night at least, if not more. How Shane knew that, Vic couldn’t


  Shane was an interesting character, shy and reserved and

  modest and just about the most humble person Vic had ever

  known. Until you got to know him. Then his true intellect, wit,

  and, quite frankly, weird sense of humor shined through and

  you began to see an almost completely different person. He was

  still modest almost to a fault and he was easily embarrassed

  when in front of strangers, but in private he was morbidly

  humorous and a little crazy. He and Vic played off each other

  well, when Vic was right in the head.

  This greeting of Shane’s was fairly typical, though Vic and

  Shane had never shared even so much as a kiss in their five or

  so years of knowing each other. Shane enjoyed teasing Vic and

  Vic quite honestly enjoyed the teasing. He was a well-respected

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  and successful public prosecutor; not many people had the

  stones to tease him about anything.

  Vic didn’t even know if Shane was gay or not. Every now

  and then Vic would get a sense that he might be, but he could

  never be certain and he certainly never planned on asking.

  Shane knew that much about him, and if he’d wanted to share

  he would have by now. They rarely talked about things like that

  anyway. Shane had never been married, and occasionally

  would mention a disastrous date, but never the gender of the

  person he’d been seeing. If Vic was a betting man, he’d have

  said Shane was gay.

  But there was a reason Vic had never been to Las Vegas.

  “M&Ms, huh?” Owen questioned as Shane laughed.

  “How was your trip?” Vic asked with a little laugh.

  “I’ll tell you when I’ve got drunk enough to handle

  remembering,” Shane said with a groan. “Owen’s flailing. Hold

  on,” Shane said with a sigh, and Vic could almost see the man

  taking the phone and holding it to his chest as he continued to

  speak. “Why do you not know where you are?”

  “I’m out of my district, man,” Vic heard Owen respond.

  “You’ve lived here all your life!” Shane protested. “Turn



  “I don’t know. It looks familiar, though. Jesus Christ, I

  hate this town, Vic,” Shane lamented as he brought the phone

  back to his mouth.

  “You’re lost, aren’t you?” Vic asked with a laugh.

  “Yes. I would be worried, but Owen has the survival

  instincts of a cockroach,” Shane murmured into the phone.

  “I heard that,” Owen said petulantly.

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  “Of course you did. You’re sitting right there,” Shane told


  “You could at least try to whisper it,” Owen responded.

  “Then it wouldn’t be half as fun to say,” Shane pointed


  Vic grinned and took a deep breath of the cool air rushing

  in through his open car window. “I’ve got to drive. I’ll see you at

  the courthouse in a bit,” he said as his chest tightened with

  excitement and his head began to feel a little light at the

  thought of seeing them both.

  He saw Owen maybe once a week, if he was lucky. In a

  way he dreaded those moments. He almost always got his heart

  trampled over when he spent any amount of time with Owen,

  but Vic had come to accept that as inevitable. Perhaps what

  made it worse was that Owen didn’t know he did it.

  If Vic had suspected that Owen knew he loved him and

  still treated him like a casual fuck, it would have given Vic

  reason to stop the cycle, to tell Owen that he couldn’t be used

  like a helipad for whenever Owen needed to land somewhere

  and just move on and be happy.

  But Owen didn’t know how Vic felt. He thought Vic did the

  same thing he did—enjoyed the fleeting moments and moved

  on—and so Vic let him in and out of his life as he pleased,

  hoping to one day have the other man see differently. Vic

  couldn’t fault him for not knowing if he’d never had the nerve

  to tell him.

  What that left Vic with, however, was heartache of the

  highest order. The plus side was that Shane was always good

  for comfort, the few times a month Vic saw him. His presence

  soothed the ache, probably because his presence often involved

  alcohol of some description, but Vic didn’t care. He would face

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  the heartache for the rare chance of enjoying time with his

  friends. He would face it for the rest of his life for those

  precious few stolen moments of almost love.

  “Hey, Vic, can you give Shane a ride back?” Owen asked as

  they stepped out into the cool air of evening. The day had

  dragged on and on and lunch had been a crusty sandwich out

  of the vending machine. A nice dinner out with friends had

  been a welcome change.

  Shane stepped to the side to light up a cigarette, and he

  looked away tactfully as Owen and Vic stood talking.

  “I thought you were on escort
duty,” Vic responded in a

  low voice.

  “Only to the courthouse,” Owen said with a shake of his

  head. “Can you get him back?”

  “Sure,” Vic answered, hiding his disappointment skillfully

  and smiling as Owen gave him a brief farewell hug. He watched

  as Shane shook Owen’s hand and said goodbye, and Vic and

  Shane stood side by side as Owen walked quickly to his

  cruiser, breaking into a jog as he crossed the side street they’d

  parked on. His shift started in an hour and in Charlotte, he

  was at least that far away from his district. He would need to

  hustle to get home and change in order to make it. Vic had

  hoped he’d be able to see him after his shift ended, but Owen

  hadn’t mentioned anything of the sort.

  Vic supposed he’d just wait until the next time Owen

  pulled court duty.

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  Shane handed his half-smoked cigarette to Vic and Vic

  took it without even thinking, taking a long drag and then

  handing it back to Shane.

  “Thought you quit,” he said to Shane with a little smile as

  he blew the smoke out of the corner of his mouth.

  “I could say the same,” Shane remarked with a raised

  eyebrow as his eyes traveled from Vic slowly back to Owen as

  the man waved at them once more from his car before pulling


  Vic turned and stared at Shane. Shane met his eyes

  expectantly. He was about Vic’s height, but broader along the

  chest and shoulders. His eyes were a deep green, striking

  against the tan of his skin, and his dirty-blond hair had begun

  to gray slightly at the temples. Vic heartily approved.

  “What do you mean?” he asked him in an almost-normal


  “Do you really think I don’t know, Vic?” Shane asked


  Vic blinked at him and Shane sighed and threw the

  remainder of his cigarette on the ground and stubbed it out

  with his toe.

  “Litterbug,” Vic mumbled automatically.

  “Doormat,” Shane retorted as he took Vic’s elbow and led

  him toward the car.

  “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Vic muttered as

  he walked up to the driver’s-side door and unlocked the little

  blue hybrid.

  “Uh-huh,” Shane answered as soon as he got into the car.

  “If you don’t want to talk about it then we won’t,” he said,

  looking out the windshield of the car thoughtfully.

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  Vic looked at him carefully then decided to take the out

  he’d been offered and started up the car. “You coming home

  with me?” he asked.

  “My hotel smells like feet,” Shane answered. Vic snorted

  before he could stop himself. “So if you don’t mind the

  company,” Shane continued hopefully.

  “Love to have it,” Vic assured him.

  They drove in silence for a while, Shane rubbing the pad of

  his index finger thoughtfully across his eyebrow as Vic drove.

  “This one of those solar-powered hybrids?” he finally asked.

  “Yeah,” Vic answered suspiciously as he glanced at his


  Shane was frowning down at the vents thoughtfully.

  “You really don’t want to talk about it?” he finally asked as

  he looked over at Vic dubiously.

  “I really don’t want to talk about it,” Vic affirmed without

  taking his eyes off the road.

  “Good idea,” Shane finally decided. “I’ll just wait ’til you’re

  drunk,” he added happily.

  Vic couldn’t help but smile.

  It was several weeks after Shane’s visit that Vic’s phone rang

  in the middle of the night. He rolled over and raised his head

  groggily, peering at the clock on the bedside table. It really was

  the middle of the night this time, just a little past three a.m.

  His stomach flipped as he reached for the phone. His job

  didn’t require off-hours calls. This had to be something bad.

  “Bronsen,” he answered, his voice rough with sleep.

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  “Hey, Vic,” Owen greeted quietly. “I know I woke you. I’m

  sorry,” he said quickly. “But I was wondering: have you been

  over at my place recently?”

  “Your place?” Vic repeated in confusion. He rubbed at his

  eyes with the heel of his hand and pushed up onto his elbows,

  shivering as the cold air hit his bare shoulders.

  “Did you come to my apartment for something?” Owen

  asked slowly.

  “No. Why?” Vic answered in growing concern. He couldn’t

  actually recall ever having been in Owen’s apartment.

  “Someone’s been here,” Owen told him in a low voice. “I’m

  calling around, making sure it’s not someone I know.”

  “Someone’s been there, like, broken in?” Vic asked


  “I gotta go, Vic,” Owen told him, and Vic heard the very

  distinct sound of his gun being drawn from its holster.

  “Owen, wait,” Vic said quickly. “Call for backup first!”

  “I’ll call you later, man,” Owen told him. Then the call

  clicked off.

  Vic looked down at the phone in his hand with a sinking

  sensation in his stomach. There was nothing to do but wait.

  An hour after being so rudely awoken by Owen’s call, Vic sat

  staring into the distance from the balcony of his condo. He

  wasn’t really seeing anything because he was too tired to make

  his eyes focus, but he was also too tired to move or blink, so

  there he sat.

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  He had been waiting for the promised call from Owen, and

  he was afraid to go back to sleep for fear of missing it. Deep

  down he knew the call wasn’t coming, but he couldn’t force

  himself to not hope that it would.

  Owen was… easily distracted. Vic had lost count of how

  many times he’d said he’d call and then the next time Vic

  heard from him was when Owen caught court duty again.

  “Hope springs eternal,” he murmured bitterly as he

  watched the shaky rays of the sun illuminate the east. But it

  was enough to keep him staying awake instead of going back to

  sleep like he desperately wanted to.

  The cell phone in his lap began to vibrate and ring and he

  started violently, having forgotten that it was still there. He had

  been clutching it ever since Owen’s call, hoping that it would

  ring and he would hear Owen’s raspy voice again, telling him

  that he was safe. He fumbled with it and sent it clattering to

  the floor and almost under the railing of the balcony and over

  the edge.

  He scrambled to retrieve it as hope fluttered in his chest,

  but then he sat back and stared at it morosely as it rang when

  he saw on the display that it was Shane Simpson calling him.

  He’d called Shane earlier in the evening about a last-minute

  invite to a summer conference that was coming up in a few

  days. The man hadn’t answered, and Vic hadn’t left a message.

  That had been hours ago, though. Why Shane was just calling

p; now, Vic couldn’t say. He flipped open the phone.

  “Vic? What’s wrong?” Shane asked as soon as Vic hit the

  speaker button.

  “Hey. Nothing’s wrong, man,” Vic answered with a little

  smile. “I was calling about the conference,” he said as he

  stretched and grunted quietly.

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  “Conference,” Shane repeated in a flat voice.

  “It was around eleven or so,” Vic told him, knowing exactly

  what Shane was thinking. He’d probably woken up to go take a

  piss or something and seen the missed call blinking on his

  phone. He would only have called back at this time of night if

  he’d thought Vic called recently, thinking it was an emergency.

  He had no way of knowing Vic was waiting up like a fool for a

  call that wouldn’t come.

  “You shithead,” Shane said with a sigh of relief, and Vic

  heard him grunt as he flopped down onto something. Probably

  his bed. Bed sounded good. “You’ll give a man a heart attack

  doing that.”

  “No reason to do that until I know I’m in the will,” Vic said

  flatly as he hefted himself up and moved back inside.

  Shane offered a tired little chuckle, but he remained silent,

  waiting for Vic to come out with the reason he was awake at

  such an hour. Vic walked carefully through the dark room,

  shuffling his feet to avoid running into anything. He failed

  miserably and cursed colorfully when his toe made contact

  with the leg of a table. He continued to curse and grunt as he

  moved around, and he could almost hear Shane’s frown.

  “You all right?” Shane finally asked worriedly.

  “Yeah. I think I just broke my toe, though,” Vic said

  absently as he reached the bed and sat down gratefully. He

  pulled his foot up close to his face to examine his mangled toe

  in the darkness as he held the phone to his ear with his


  “No, I mean… it’s four in the morning, man. Why are you


  “Oh. Oh! Yeah. Sorry, uh… I got a call from Owen about

  an hour ago. His apartment was broken into. He was calling to

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