Danny sat at his table, sorting through the pile of mail he’d let pile up over the course of a very busy week. Bills went into one pile, rejection letters in another, he cursed when he opened yet another thin envelop telling him they his play wasn’t right for the lineup they had planned for the upcoming year. He tossed it with the others and sighed. He’d known when he wrote Masks that it was a little bit different but he’d never imagined that it would be this hard to find playhouses who’d be willing to perform it.
The junk mail pile grew as well. He was getting damn tired of the same insurance company sending a brochure every month, and what up with cigarette companies, he didn’t smoke but was forever getting coupons. The only coupons he truly appreciated were the ones for cat food with as much as his kitties ate.
Lyric mewed and jumped up on the table, landing in the pile of rejection letters which slid, spilling paper and cat onto the floor. With a sniff and a flick of her tail she stalked off to go sit on the back of the couch and lick her paws while shooting him dirty looks. Like it was his fault she’d picked a crappy place to land.
The knock on the door couldn’t have come at a better time. He held the last letter in his hands, the return address reading Atticus Playhouse and it didn’t feel any thicker than any of the others had so he was in no big rush to open it and see that his play had been passed over again.
He looked through the peephole as he’d taken to doing ever since he’d kicked Sean out, shocked to see Jax standing on the other side, shuffling from one foot to the other. Quickly undoing the locks, Danny pulled the door open and looked up at his neighbor.
“Hey,” Jax said, continuing his restless shuffle.
“Hey, what’s going on?” Danny asked, feeling a little nervous as he watched Jax’s eyes dart around the hall. “Do you want to come in?”
Jax sighed heavily and shook his head. “No thanks, just wanted to say I was sorry. I saw the sticky notes you left on my door, I just, I’m sorry I didn’t respond.”
“No problem, I figured you were busy at the shop and stuff, it’s no big deal. I had free time and thought you might want to hang out if you didn’t have anything else to do.”
That just seemed to make Jax shuffle more.
“I um, didn’t have anything going on, I just didn’t want to hang out is all.”
“Like I said, I’m sorry. It was really cool of you to come down to the shop and pick me up the other night, you didn’t have to do that. You deserve better than me ignoring you.”
“Yeah,” Danny said. “I do, and I deserve better than an apology too. I deserve to know why you’ve been ignoring me, did I do something wrong. If it was about the way I kissed you in the alley, I’m not sorry. I’d wanted to do that since you kissed me in the hall. If you’re worried that I’m looking for something intensely serious between us, don’t be. I just got out of a shitty relationship I went into way too fast. I’m not about to make the same mistake again.”
“Yeah, I-I wasn’t trying to assume anything.”
“Weren’t you? Isn’t that exactly why you ignored me? Look, you made it pretty clear you had relationship issues and so did I. Figured as long as we were being honest with one another, we could see where things might go. But I’m not in the mood for another person who wants to play games so thanks for the apology, I think it’s best if we go back to just being neighbors.”
Jax pressed his hand against the door as Danny went to close it. “I, that wasn’t my intention.”
“No, but it is mine. Can you get your hand off my door please?”
“Can I just say something first, please?” Jax asked.
Danny debated, but in the end, decided he wanted to hear what Jax had to say, if only to confirm his decision that getting involved with him wasn’t going to work out.
“Fine.” Danny said at last. “Go ahead.”
Jax bit his lower lip, looking everywhere but at Danny.
“I like you,” he finally blurted out.
“You have a very bad way of showing it.”
“I know, that’s part of what I was sorry for,” Jax said. “I like you, but I didn’t want to like you.”
“Isn’t that nice. Thanks, that’s just what I needed to hear.”
“No, I, dammit, Danny, it’s complicated.”
“Uh-huh, well do me a favor and uncomplicated it or get out of my doorway.”
Jax’s shuffling turned to pacing until Danny stepped out into the hall right in front of him to bring his motion to a halt.
“Look, spit it out or go, I’m not in the mood for bullshit, okay.”
Danny just snorted and shook his head. “Try harder.”
“I have some major issues, okay?” Jax began. “Trust issues, self-esteem issues, food issues, just, issues. I’m not good relationship material right now. I really enjoyed going out with you. I like spending time together. I like you. I don’t wanna mess that up.”
Danny stepped back, studding him for a bit. Jax looked sad, and tired. He believed him when he said that he had issues, some of which Danny had already caught a glimpse of. It was a plus that Jax was being upfront right now, even if it seemed like he was holding a lot back.
“I like you, too,” Danny admitted. “I’m not happy about being ignored and that you felt you couldn’t be honest and upfront with me when I left the notes, or even before that, but I would like us to be friends.”
“So would I, and if it turns into more later…”
“No, see that’s where you start getting confusing again. You say you’re not ready for a relationship but you’re already talking about being open to one, which means you’ve thought about us having one but some issue or fear is getting in the way. You kissed me first, then you kissed me back, what that tells me is you’re fine with the physical stuff, you just don’t want… what, to be tied down to one person? Sorry, I don’t do casual sex.”
“That’s… not what I’m after. I mean, I would be, if you were into it, but…”
“Yeah, okay, time to go.”
“No!” Danny snapped, cutting him off. “Enough for the night. come back when you figure out exactly what you want from me, or don’t, I don’t have time for this shit.”
And with that Danny stalked back inside and closed the door with a firm click, reengaging the locks and throwing himself on the couch only to be pounced on by the kitties. Hugging them, he ranted about men until they scattered and found somewhere else to sit. Leaving Danny staring at the ceiling and grumbling into the night.
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