Finding Jackie
PG EXCERPT

The Metro hadn’t changed from the previous spring, and neither had Donnell, the doctor, or Jerry, the nurse. Which shouldn’t have been surprising. It had only been about five months. But to Sonny, the place, the night, had a whole different feel. He’d been sick, last time, with a fever, and he’d been grieving. It had been less than a month after Delsyn died.

This time was better, but not quite fine. Not quite the pleasant social dinner he’d hoped for. He and Luki—mostly because they lived in such a remote place—didn’t get the chance to do this sort of thing much. This was a rare chance to have dinner with another married gay couple and laugh, maybe talk a little, but mostly enjoy the company and have fun. That’s the kind of night Sonny had hoped for—he had wedding pictures to show off, for God’s sake.

He wasn’t having that kind of evening, but he was doing his best to fake it. He did bring out his phone with the pictures on it. He wondered more than once if anybody at the table, even Luki, noticed that his smile was a little funky, that he couldn’t help cross his arms in front of his chest, that he hardly ate any of his seafood sauté. When the eating was done and their tablemates left for the dance floor, he got his answer.

“Sonny,” Luki asked, “is everything okay? I… you seem… I don’t know, unhappy. Uncomfortable.”

So. He did notice. Earns him a few points, I suppose, but not nearly enough. Sonny shook his head, denying Luki’s observation of trouble. “I’m okay.”

“Is it the note, the person messing with your work? Are you worried? Scared? Talk to me baby. I’ll help if I can.”

Sonny sighed. “Yeah, Luki, that’s right. That’s what’s bothering me.” He picked up his bottle of Full Sail Amber Ale, held it up in the light to see how much was left, and downed it. Which was not Sonny’s usual behavior, and that was certainly the reason Luki was staring at him wide-eyed. But hey. He was over twenty-one and if he wanted to guzzle beer, or rather ale, he had every right to do so. He wasn’t driving.

Luki pursed his lips—his luscious lips that Sonny did not want to kiss at the moment, even though he noticed their lusciousness. Because it really wasn’t the short-term, unauthorized borrowing of his work and a nasty little note—let’s face it, once you’ve had one written in blood, typewritten, creepy notes really have less shock value. It wasn’t that at all. It was what he’d seen in Luki’s breast pocket. Did he really think I wouldn’t see?

“Well, if that’s what’s bothering you, what do you want to do? What do you want me to do?”

“Are you going to drink the rest of your beer?” When Luki shook his head and passed the bottle, he guzzled that, too. Of course, Luki had really never seen him do that. It wasn’t something he did. It made his throat burn pleasantly—from the fizz he supposed, but the way it made his head feel was too much like the fever he’d had the last time he was here. He raised his hand to signal the waiter, who was walking by but ignored him. This he was used to, and it was annoying but no more bothersome than that. But Luki saw, and it more than bothered him.

“What is it you want, Sonny, another beer?”

“No! Ice water.”

Luki looked relieved, which pissed Sonny off a bit, mostly because he understood completely. Sonny drunk was probably something Luki wouldn’t ever want to see. It was actually something Sonny didn’t ever want to be. And Luki was beautiful, damn it, when he raised an arm and flashed icy blue eyes at the waiter. The man responded immediately, practically bowing at the waist.

“We’d like some ice water, please,” Luki said.

The waiter bobbed a fucking curtsy and said, “Yes, sir, right away.”

“With lemon,” Sonny said, in a perfectly audible voice.

The waiter said nothing and turned to walk away.

“With lemon,” Luki said, barely a hoarse whisper.

“Oh, yes sir, no trouble. With lemon. I’ll bring that right back.”

“That really pisses me off,” Luki said, wrapping Sonny’s braid around his hand. “Why do they do that?”

“Let go!” Sonny said, and Luki did, though he also looked like he might stop breathing. “They do that because I’m invisible. It’s not new.”

“You’re not fucking invisible! You’re solid flesh and bone like everybody else but much more beautiful.”

Sonny rolled his eyes. Probably a good thing the waiter brought back the water just then. Luki’s had lemon; Sonny’s didn’t. Luki started to say something; Sonny stopped him. “Just leave it, Luki, it’s fine.”

“It’s not,” Luki said, and switched their glasses. “Sonny, I don’t understand.” He put his big, strong hand on the small of Sonny’s back and leaned in as if planning to say more.

Usually, that hand on his back made Sonny feel good, loved, protected, needed, wanted. Now it made him feel really antsy and more pissed than he already was. “Take your hand off me!”

From the look on Luki’s face, Sonny might have just gut-stabbed him. All he said was, “The fuck!”

“When were you going to tell me?” That would have to be called an outburst, Sonny knew, because he wasn’t nearly quiet enough for a private argument in public. Not only that, but he could feel his anger creep onto his face, his eyes narrowing, his top lip curling, a scowl for all the world to see—especially Luki.

Luki was quiet long enough for Sonny to find it hard to hold that expression, but he persevered. Finally, Luki spoke very quietly. “Why are you scowling at me, and tell you about what?”

“This,” Sonny said, his voice finally flat. He smacked the flat of his hand against Luki’s chest, where, inside the vest pocket, Sonny’s new husband had hidden his old badge.

Nothing more was said, at Luki’s request or possibly command, until they’d left the restaurant, taken the cab ride, and turned on some lights in their ultra-modern suite at the Monaco.

Then Sonny said, “When were you going to tell me about that, Luki?”