A/N: So, I had this dream and I wrote this story! Enjoy!!
As his car got stopped at the checkpost, Gary scanned the men stationed there. None of them were familiar and they waved him through after a perfunctory and routine verification. Gary did not know if he was relieved or disappointed. It was quite possible of course that Blake was no longer here. Or perhaps, he was no longer as influential as he once was.
Gary refused to think of any other scenarios his overactive brain came up with. He still wasn’t certain why he came. True, he wanted to attend Sue’s wedding, but she would have understood if he’d told her why he couldn’t come.
Why did he come back? Perhaps he had a death wish? After all the last time they had seen each other, Blake had very publicly threatened to kill Gary. And Gary had done the smart thing and left town.
At the time, Gary wasn’t certain how effective running would be. But he’d stayed alive for three years before he had that accident. No one had come looking for him. So, he supposed it had been pretty effective.
Of course, it wasn’t such a smart move to come back here. Though after his accident and the surgery, he was all but unrecognizable. The doctors had suggested plastic surgery, but Gary had declined the option. The scars that disfigured his face and made him unidentifiable were a reminder. A reminder of how transient life was. Of how fortunate he was to be alive at all.
And here he was, trying to throw away that life by coming back to the one city where he was in mortal danger.
Gary was wondering if it might be wise to turn around and drive away and to make his excuses by phone to Sue when he saw Blake. Or rather, the building that housed Blake’s office which for some reason had a large bill board which flashed Blake’s face.
So, Blake was still around.
Gary weighed his options. He could go back. He could stay out of Blake’s orbit and be safe. Or he could embrace the danger and introduce himself to Blake.
He grimaced. Introduce himself. It sounded so weird considering the relation he had with Blake at one time. It was all based on lies, of course, so yes, introducing himself was not so strange after all.
Gary drove to the hotel he’d stayed in during his last memorable visit to the town. He gave his real name at the desk. But the manager, the same man who was here the last time, showed no hint of recognition. Which wasn’t surprising considering the way he looked right now. His name wasn’t an uncommon one after all, and the man apparently didn’t make the connection.
Having refreshed himself, Gary called room service and ordered lunch. Then he picked up his cell phone to call Carla. He owed her a call.
“Gary?” She exclaimed when he identified himself. “My God! I didn’t recognize your voice! Are you having a cold? Where are you calling from?”
He told her. There was silence in the line for a long moment that he thought the line was dead.
“Carla? You there?”
“Are you crazy?” She demanded in a breathless whisper. “What made you come back, Gary? Blake Dexter does not forget! And you made him look like a fool when you came out with that story.”
“I’m a reporter, Carla,” he said. “I can’t keep running every time danger threatens.”
“But you don’t have to go looking for it! My God! Gary! I hope you had the sense to check in under a different name at least.”
“Actually, I did not.”
“Don’t worry, Carla. I’ll be gone before you know it. I had some urgent personal business. Just thought I’d call you.”
“Gary, I’d love to meet you, but I don’t want to get you in trouble. You may have no sense of self preservation, but I don’t want to attend your funeral.”
There was a knock on the door just then.
“I’ll call you later, Carla. I think my lunch is here.”
“Take care, Gary.”
He ended the call and put the phone back in his pocket. He opened the door to find the muzzle of a gun trained against his forehead. The man holding the gun was one of Blake’s henchmen, Nate Benson. Blake was also standing there, behind the man. A terrified waiter was also there, with the lunch trolley.
Gary lifted his hands to the air. His heart was racing. He wondered how the manager or anybody recognized him. The injury to his throat had caused some damage to his vocal chords, causing his voice to be raspy and hoarse, so it was unlikely that his voice was recognized either. It might be the name that did it.
“I’m sorry,” said Blake, touching Benson on the shoulder. Benson lowered his gun and tried to look apologetic. “I mistook you for someone else.”
Gary stared at Blake. Of course, he didn’t recognize him. No one had. But Blake’s men were not taking chances and so had informed Blake about the man who checked in under the name Gary O’Brien.
With a nod, Blake left with his man. The waiter wheeled the trolley in apologizing profusely. But Gary was not paying attention to the waiter. He was too shaken.
He knew he shouldn’t have come. Blake still wanted him dead. Carla was right. Blake Dexter did not forget.
Gary slept all through the afternoon. When he woke up, it was already six and he still felt groggy. He pushed himself out of the bed, groaning. He picked up the phone to call room service to order a pot of coffee and dragged himself to the shower.
Drinking his coffee, he contemplated having dinner in his room. Had he come here for that? To hide in his hotel room? He’d known Blake would want to kill him when he came. He knew it before he came. Then why did it affect him so badly now?
Because, his heart answered, some part of him had hoped Blake would have forgotten it by now. After all, seven years was a long time.
Not long enough, apparently.
His hand hovered over the phone. He had not come here to hide. He had intended to let Blake know he was here. Of course, he should have known that Blake wouldn’t recognize him.
Gary dropped his hand. It would probably count as suicidal to call Blake and tell him who he was.
But hadn’t he come here to make peace with Blake?
He shook his head. He’d come for Sue. And he knew Blake was not likely to attend Sue’s wedding. Sue and Tom were artists, which made them as unlikely to be in Blake’s orbit as he was.
Gary knew he could have told her why he couldn’t come and she wouldn’t have complained, but Sue was important to him. Had it not been for her, he would never have survived the years of physiotherapy after his accident. He probably would never have even gone in for it had she not pushed him. She’d come and stayed with him to make certain he wouldn’t cheat on his practice. She’d driven him to and fro without his even asking for two years. And she’d put up with his anger and negativity and complaints without reacting in kind.
No, he was not going to stay away. He was going to attend Sue’s wedding.
He picked up his phone to call Sue to let her know he was in town. He should have called her before this, but he wanted to compose himself first. And that call to Carla was part of the closure he sought for that episode of his life.
He frowned as the call went to voicemail. Perhaps she was busy. With a wedding in two days, it was natural. He would call her later.
But his phone rang just then. It was Sue. He grinned as he answered.
“Gary!” She shrieked. “You actually came!”
“How could I not?” He laughed. “You’re my best friend.”
“And some,” she laughed. “When did you reach?”
“This afternoon. When can we meet? Shall I come over?”
“Not today, Gar. I’m super busy. We can meet for lunch tomorrow. If I had known it was going to be this much bother, I’d never have said yes to Tom.”
He laughed again. “Poor Tom!”
“Well, we were living together anyway. This is just making it official or legal or whatever. But it is so much trouble for a minor detail.”
“Does Tom share your views?”
“I think he’s beginning to regret ever asking me. We haven’t had a moment to ourselves this past week. Relatives we never even knew existed are trampling all over our house. God!”
He grinned. “Well, I’ll leave you to it.”
“Don’t forget lunch tomorrow. There’s a new restaurant a block away from your hotel. The food is really good.”
“I’ll be there.”
He hung up feeling so much better about being here.
There was a knock on his door. He opened it, still chuckling and the smile faded from his face as he saw the man who stood there.
“Hi,” said Blake. “I just wanted to apologize properly for earlier. May I come in?”
Gary swallowed and nodded. He’d not seen Blake properly earlier since he was standing behind Benson. He looked exactly as he remembered.
Gary closed the door and turned to face Blake. He needed closure. And he was damned if he was going to chicken out now. He just hoped his closure would not be a literal one.
“There’s something I need to tell you first.”
Blake was looking at him with a strange expression on his face.
“Why did you come back, Gary?”
Gary felt as if someone had dunked him in cold water. He was finding it difficult to breathe.
“How did you recognize me?” He asked finally.
Blake made an impatient gesture. “That look in your eyes when you saw me earlier and now too.”
“The look in my eyes.” He repeated as he crossed to the bar and poured himself a drink. “Even I didn’t recognize myself the first time I looked in a mirror.”
Blake shrugged. “I guess I know you more than you do, then.”
“Yea, I guess that’s why you want to kill me.”
Blake shrugged. “You know I have a temper.”
“Is that why you came with a gun wielding henchman?”
“I couldn’t be certain about your intentions, now, could I?”
“What do you mean?”
“Gary, when you… well, the last time… you were only after a story. But you could have been after my life, and I wouldn’t have known. So…”
Gary sighed. “I came for Sue’s wedding, if you must know.”
Blake looked blank.
“Sue.” He said patiently. “The artist. The one I recommended for a job at the school.”
“Oh her. Didn’t realize she meant this much to you. After all, you did take a risk in coming here.”
“Well, I probably would still be tied to a wheel chair, full of anger and self-pity if not for her. So, yes. I took a risk, but I had to.”
“What happened to you?”
Gary flung himself down on a chair. “Look, if you’re here to kill me, kill me. If you’re not, say what you have to and go. I… I’m not in the mood for reminiscences.”
“I don’t remember you being this touchy,”
“Things have changed. I have changed.”
“Have they? Really? I wonder.”
Gary realized what was happening only when he found Blake’s arms around him and his mouth on his.
“Blake,” he groaned. “It has been seven years,”
“And you still respond to me,” murmured Blake, his fingers stroking Gary’s face. “I wonder why.”
“You know why,” said Gary quietly. “That’s one thing I never lied about.”
“And yet, you lied about everything else. So, can you blame me for believing that you lied about that too?”
“That’s over,” Gary muttered. “Why dredge it all up?”
“It’s not over for me, Gary. And judging by your words, it’s not over for you either.”
“Look, why are you so keen to believe me? I could be lying to you.”
“Like I said, there was that look in your eyes when you saw me. I don’t think you faked it since you didn’t even know I was going to come here.”
“Blake, this is stupid.”
“Look at me. I mean, look at my face.”
Blake scanned his face gravely. “A bit scarred. But it suits you.”
Gary sighed. “Blake, I may not be a cripple, but that doesn’t mean I’m whole. And… I did lie to you. I lied to get close to you, all for a story.”
“But you never lied about your feelings for me,” Blake kissed him again. “Can’t have been easy for you. I know I’m the antithesis of every ideal you ever had. And I haven’t changed.”
“I know. It doesn’t matter to me. You are what you are. And I am what I am.”
“That doesn’t mean we can’t be together.”
“Isn’t this seven years too late?”
“Maybe,” Blake sighed. “Look, I want you back in my life. Maybe I’m a fool to trust you again after what you did, but… well… and if you don’t want it, you’d better say it now.”
Gary closed his eyes and his arms tightened around Blake. He was scared by how much he wanted this. He had got through the years by deliberately pushing Blake to the back of his mind.
“I want this too,” he whispered at last. “But Blake-”
“No buts,” Blake’s voice was husky against his ears. “You and I, we both did things we shouldn’t have done. Let’s just put it all behind us.”
Gary smiled. “Why not?”