“I noticed.” His tone is expressionless.
“I’m so sorry.” But that barely covers it. The trouble is, saying more could make things worse. I could risk whatever this is now. But I have to say something beyond a simple apology for what I did.
His mask gives zero away as we walk. “Nothing to be sorry about,” he says. “I figured it out.”
We reach the door, and he hardly looks my way. “It’s okay. You’re not obligated to stay. You’re not obligated to do anything at all. It’s all fine.” His tone is flat. He could be talking to me about a contract to clean the carpets.
But nothing is fine. Fine is how I feel about a turkey sandwich, or a piece of furniture, or a haircut, or the new blanket Carrie bought me.
But fine is not how I feel about Dean.
It’s never been how I felt, and now, it’s the furthest thing from what I feel.
And I’ve got to let him know. “I just freaked out. I couldn’t sleep, and I freaked out,” I say, starting to get to the heart of things.
He reaches into his jeans pocket. “I don’t know why you would.” His voice is so distant, and I’m such an ass for leaving.
“Because everything is happening so quickly,” I say, trying that on for size as he finds the keys in his pocket and palms them, meeting my gaze briefly.
“And everything is ending quickly, Fitz,” he says, matter-of-fact to the bone, as we stand in front of his building.
My heart hammers ruthlessly, its breakneck speed a reminder that I have to do this. I have to find the guts to let him know.
How do I express this emotion when I barely understand it?
This is all so damn new to me. The last person I had any feelings for was my college boyfriend, and that was more than six years ago. This is entirely different. We’re adults. We’re busy in our careers. We have lives and jobs and families and responsibilities. This is flying blind.
“That’s why I left. Because it is ending. And that sucks,” I say, taking another small step.
Dean’s expression remains stony. He’s more inscrutable than he’s ever been. “Fine. It was always ending. You ended it sooner. Doesn’t really matter, does it?”
I drag a hand through my hair, wishing I could get out all the words, but I’m terrified they’ll scare him away.
I purse my lips, hunting for the right sentences, when Dean does something unexpected. He fills the silence. He never does that. He always waits.
“Look, Fitz. Relationships end. It happens. It’s normal. They don’t last. I never expected anything. Stop acting like I did.” His tone is crisp, but his eyes look hurt.
I know that look. I feel it deep in my bones. I understand exactly what he’s not saying, what he maybe won’t let himself say.
But I have to say something. I’m the one who freaked out, the one who left. I’m the one who wants him back, if only for a day. And I have to let him know what he’s done to me.
Here in the doorway, in front of his home, I peel off a layer of truth, and it’s scary as hell, but it feels wholly necessary. “What if I do? What if I want more?”
Dean meets my gaze fully this time. His brown eyes flare with possibility, but pain too. He looks away, then back at me, shaking his head. “You can’t have that.”
“I still want it.” I sound desperate. I feel desperate. I tap my chest. “Do you think I came here to feel this way? Do you think I came to London to feel anything?”
“No. You came here to get laid, and you did it. Plain and simple.”
“That’s not why you’re mad.”
“Why am I mad, then?”
I reach for the box in his arms so I can set it on the stoop, but he doesn’t let go of it. Fine, I’ll do this with a physical barrier between us. I clear my throat. “Because in the last forty-eight hours, it’s become more than that, and you know it. Hell, it was more than that the first time we slept together, and you know that too.”
He breathes out hard, licks his lips, then in a quiet voice that gives me hope, he asks, “What did it become?”
I grab his shoulder to bring him close. “You know what it became.”
I inch closer like I’m about to kiss him. To tell him with my lips what this is.
He holds up a hand and presses it to my chest, a powerful stop sign. “You’re not kissing your way out of this, James. You’re not fucking your way out of this. I’m thirty-one. I’m not swayed by that. If you’re trying to say something to me, just say it. Don’t kiss it. Say it and mean it.”