November 18th 2018
The whole subway ride Audrey was silent, lost in her own thoughts. Darius had sensed that she needed some time to herself, especially after the conversation they had just had and was more than happy to give it to her while he played a game on his phone, determined to beat the high score that he had achieved last week.
While Joe had said that he would behave and not push for anything more than just being friends with benefits with her, Audrey knew that he was secretly hoping for more. All this time she had thought she would never be able to give that to him however, now she wasn’t so sure.
In fact, she wasn’t quite sure what she wanted.
When Joe came into her life a few weeks ago, a lot of things had changed for her. She no longer buried herself in her work as much which her boss was glad about. Mr Drazer had begun to worry that she would burn herself out so her more relaxed behaviour and attitude towards work was very much welcome. It was also good that instead of the quality of her work dropping, it had actually gotten better and she was glad that he cared about her instead of just her work.
Sometimes, she found herself wishing that she had met Joe before Calvin. Maybe then her life would have turned out differently and maybe then she wouldn’t be so worried to purse something more meaningful than just casual sex with him.
As much as she loved the benefits of their agreement, sometimes she felt like they did so much more than what friends who were sleeping together would do.
At times, many times, it felt like they were in a relationship but without the label, and she had no one but herself to blame for those blurry lines.
Once they arrived at their stop, both Darius and Audrey hopped off and began the short 5-minute walk to the new Darcy’s Diner.
Audrey placed her hand on Darius’ arm and remained close by his side to preserve heat as the November wind was especially harsh that evening.
When she saw how packed the diner was, she grinned, genuinely happy for him. She knew that moving the diner to a whole new location had been a great risk as essentially, he would be starting all over again. She also knew that she had also played a small part in the decision even if he refused to admit it, so she hoped nothing but great success for him and the diner.
The hostess greeted them at the door and smiled warmly as she led them over to an empty table that had just cleared up.
They took their seats and she glanced over the familiar menu. Joe had shown it to her last week for her opinion. Everything on it had looked great then and now, it all looked even better, so much so that she was now spoiled for choice.
“I’ll give you a few moments to go over the menu and your waiter will be with you shortly.” The hostess smiled warmly at them both before returning to her position at the door where a new wave of customers had just walked in.
“When do I get to meet your Joe?”
“He’s not my Joe.” Audrey rolled her eyes but her lips twitched at the corners and there was nothing she could do about the smile that threatened to take over her face. “But I haven’t seen him yet so he’s probably in the kitchen or in his office.”
Darius grinned and reached over to nudge her hand with his. “You should go and see him.” He sent a pointed look to what she could only assume was his guess to where Joe currently was.
“You don’t think that’s too much?” She murmured quietly, her lips turning down slightly. “And I don’t want to leave you alone here.”
Despite her words, she couldn’t help but wish she could go and see Joe as per her friend’s suggestion.
“No.” Darius shook his head and grinned. “I would love it if my boyfriend stopped by for surprise visit and don’t mind me.” He dismissed the issue, encouraging her to get up to find Joe.
Audrey grinned and stood up.
She sent Darius one last grin over her shoulder before she slipped through the kitchen doors to look for the man of the hour. Since Joe had introduced her to some of the staff earlier that week, no one stopped her.
Audrey moved a little away from the doors so someone wouldn’t hit her if they were to walk through and she glanced around. A small smile crept onto her face when she couldn’t spot him anywhere amongst all the chefs and waiters that were busy around the kitchen, working hard to get everyone’s food out on time.
“He’s in his office.” One of the chefs smiled at her, pointing to the hallway that led to his office, a utility cupboard and a spare room they currently used for storage.
Audrey smiled in thanks and slipped out into the hallway, making her way to his office.
She raised her hand, fisted it and knocked on the door twice.
She opened the door and slipped in, making sure to close it behind her to give them some privacy.
“Audrey?” Joe grinned at her and put his pen down to meet her halfway, immediately reaching for her. “What are you doing here? You were supposed to message me when you got here.” He stated as he looped his arms around her waist, pulling her flush against his body, not leaving even a slither of space between them.
“I thought I’d surprise you.” Audrey murmured quietly, tilting her head up to grin up at him, her own arms wounding around his middle.
“And what a pleasant surprise this is.” He lips brushed against hers when he spoke, but he refused to give her a proper kiss. When she groaned in frustration and circled her arms around his neck to tug on his hair, he grinned and finally complied.
Once Joe eventually let her go, – albeit begrudgingly as he wanted nothing more than to keep her in his arms and shower her with more kisses – she giggled softly to herself as she slipped out of the office and made her way back to the table where Darius was patiently waiting for her, playing another game on his phone.
“So, did he appreciate the surprise?” He grinned as he dragged his eyes away from the screen momentarily to glance across the table at her.
“That, amongst other things.” Audrey grinned cheekily.
“You really are quite naughty, aren’t you?”
She threw her head back and laughed.
“He’s just finishing something up in his office but he said he would drop by in a few minutes.”
“Great.” Darius grinned. “I can’t wait to meet your new boyfriend.”
Audrey rolled her eyes but didn’t bother correcting him. Boyfriend had a nice ring to it and suited him well, even if it did make her feel funny on the inside.
Almost as if perfect timing, Joe arrived just as the waiter plated their food on the table. He must have orchestrated the whole thing as he balanced a plate of chicken pie, vegetables and gravy for himself in one hand, and some mozzarella balls and a portion of fries to share.
When Joe placed both the plates on the table and asked the waiter to top up their glasses, Darius grinned and held out his hand, standing up in formal yet friendly greeting.
Audrey introduced them both to each other and smiled widely. While she wished that some of her other friends could have made it, she appreciated that it was just the three of them. It made everything all the less daunting.
They all took their seats and started on their dinner. Audrey had ordered the tomato pasta and a side salad while Darius had opted for the lasagne and spicy chicken wings, an unlikely combo yet she didn’t mind as she stole a spicy wing off his plate, grinning cheekily when he mock frowned at her.
“I’ve heard so much about you.” Darius turned to Joe, eager to lure the stranger he had heard so much about into a conversation.
“All good things I hope.” Joe chuckled.
They all enjoyed their food and once they had finished their meals, Joe excused himself to get back to work while they ordered dessert.
Once he was out listening range, Darcy rested his elbows on the table and leaned in towards her.
“Is he usually that quiet?”
Audrey frowned and watched Joe’s back as he walked into the kitchen.
“No, not really.” She shook her head.
Darius hummed as his eyes scanned over the dessert menu. “Well, it’s opening night so he’s probably got a lot on his mind. I wouldn’t read too much into things.”
“Probably.” Audrey murmured quietly.
Very soon after their dessert had arrived, Darius had received a text from his boyfriend asking if he would like to do something, so they were quick to finish up for the evening.
Audrey didn’t mind. In fact, she encouraged him even as she knew that Darius didn’t get many opportunities to spend much time with his boyfriend and didn’t want him to pass up on the opportunity on her accord, especially when they were nearly finished with the evening.
When she stood up and slipped the coat over her shoulders, she craned her neck to glance around the diner, trying to catch a glimpse of Joe so she could tell him that they were leaving.
“Why don’t you stay?” Darius asked as he tucked in the chair and straightened out his jacket.
“You won’t mind?” Audrey hummed and looked up at him hopefully, her eyes twinkling.
“Babe,” he laughed. “I’m cutting short our evening so I can go fuck my boyfriend. Trust me when I say everything’s good and I don’t mind in the least.”
Audrey grinned and leaned up on her tip toes to press a kiss to his cheek, wrapping her arms around him for a quick hug. She watched as Darius left the diner, a hop in his step as he went off to meet his lover for a late-night rendezvous or rather, a rumble in the sheets.
When she couldn’t find Joe in the kitchen again, she turned into the hallway to heard toward his office. Again, she knocked quietly but didn’t wait for him to call her in this time as she opened the door and slipped in.
“I’m surprised you’re still here.”
“What do you mean?” She asked, confused as she closed the door behind her and approached the desk.
Joe refused to meet her eyes as he continued going over some paper work, working hard on trying to make himself look busy. While he had only voiced a few words himself, his tone spoke a thousand unspoken, silent words that didn’t pass his lips.
“What’s wrong? Did I do something to upset you?” She asked warily, walking around the desk to close the offending distance between them. “Tell me what’s wrong so I can fix it.”
Joe huffed and pushed himself away from the desk and spun in his chair so he was directly facing her now. While his expression remained neutral, his eyes blazed angrily and she was sure she could see some green in his usually dark greys.
Sudden realisation dawned on her and she was unable to keep the laughter from bubbling up to the surface.
“I don’t see how you could possibly find this funny, lady.” He crossed his arms over his chest and watched her, not even the least bit amused which was very unlike his usual light-hearted behaviour.
The angrier he looked, the more Audrey laughed before she was bent over in half and clutching her stomach, no longer in control of herself as tears leaked from the corners of her eyes from how hard she was laughing.
Instead of throwing a throwing temper tantrum – she had secretly hoped he would as it would have been hilarious to watch – Joe rose to his feet and cupped the back of her neck before swooping down to place a hot, bruising kiss against her mouth, expressing to her through his actions just how angry he was.
“Why are you jealous?” She whispered against his lips with a dazed look on her face.
“Why did you kiss him on the cheek?” He asked, not bothering to deny the fact that he was indeed, very jealous of seeing her so cosy with Darius earlier.
He nodded and pressed another kiss to her lips, almost as if he despised her saying another man’s name, especially when she was in his arms.
“He’s just a friend.”
Joe frowned. “You guys looked more than friends to me.”
“I promise you we’re just friends.” Audrey laughed softly and pressed a kiss to the corner of his lips, gazing up at him adoringly. “Plus, he’s gay and has a boyfriend.”
“You could have started with that.” He released a sigh of relief.
“What? And miss your temper tantrum.” She giggled softly.
“It wasn’t a temper tantrum.” Joe groaned and dipped his head to steal another kiss. “I was just a little jealous.” He said, downplaying the sheer rage he had felt earlier when he had seen the both of them together.
“You can be so silly sometimes, Joe.” She sighed against his mouth and fisted his shirt in her hands to pull him closer. “Anyway, why would I need to see other men when I’ve already got you?” She hummed quietly, not allowing herself to dwell too long on the meaning behind her words.
“I guess that does make sense.” He murmured against her mouth before swooping down to claim her lips yet again, sucking on her bottom lip and raking her teeth gently before soothing the sting with a light swipe of his skilful tongue.
Audrey closed her eyes and allowed herself to enjoy the moment. It wouldn’t be long before her demons returned and she started overthinking everything but for now, she allowed herself to enjoy the moment.
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