#12 One bad night
It’s already close to noon when I enter Kian’s house, praying he’s home, even though I’m dreading the talk we need to have.
“Thank God,” Kian breathes the second he sees me, jumping up from the couch. “I wasn’t sure you were ever coming back.”
“All my stuff is here,” I reply stupidly.
“That’s why you’re here?” He looks like he’s going to break down into tears any moment now. “To get your stuff? Can’t we… talk about this?”
Fuck. He thinks I’m leaving him. “That’s why I’m here. To talk.”
He looks so relieved it would be funny if it wasn’t so damn serious. When he steps in for a hug, I clutch him just as tightly, wishing being in a relationship wouldn’t be so hard. I haven’t been in a serious one in over ten years, so I’m not even sure I’m doing any of this right. Pretty sure it should be easier, right? It’s been almost nine months now. Why are we still struggling with the basics?
“I’m so sorry,” he murmurs against my neck. “You were right. You were so fucking right. I’ve been trying to think of a way to show you I’m sorry all morning.”
“I don’t need you to show me you’re sorry, I know you are.” I take a step back, holding him at arm’s length. “What I need is for us to finally fix this mess we’re in.”
“It was just one bad night,” he argues. “I was a dick. I’ll do better.”
“It’s more than one bad night, Kian.” Talking to Liv and Andre helped me see things clearer. I love Kian, and I want to make things work. I am not walking away from him when things get hard, but I do need the same commitment from him, and I don’t think that I’ve had that these past months. I’m always all in when I fall for someone, but I don’t feel like he’s doing the same. I took a huge leap of faith, and he’s still taking baby steps.
That stops now. I need a big leap too. I think I deserve one. I’ll jump with him if he’s scared, but I can’t keep falling alone. It’s too damn painful.
“I know I haven’t put in enough effort to be around your friends,” Kian says as we sit down together. At the dining table, not on the couch. I’m too scared I will fall back into old habits and get lost in his body instead of talking things through. We need a piece of furniture between us to do this properly. “I will do better. Scarlett is in town, right? I know you wanted Mila to come over for dinner, and I kept putting it off. Let’s invite both of them. Tomorrow.”
This is what Andre was talking about. This is great and all, and what I wanted all along, but it’s not actually dealing with last night’s issue. He’s slapping a band-aid on the wound instead of cleaning it up and letting it heal. I’m full of useless band-aids. I’m sick of them.
“I’ll invite them,” I reply, trying to find the right words. “But I need more than a band-aid.”
Yeah, okay, that makes no sense. He looks at me like he’s not sure what I mean, and I can’t blame him.
“You’re fixing an issue by doing something that will make me happy, without healing the wound.”
Fuck. That makes no sense either. When I get upset, my mind and my mouth don’t seem to work together anymore.
“Ugh,” I grunt. “Sorry. How did Andre put it again…”
“Andre?” Kian replies, his voice tight. “You talked to Andre about this?”
“I needed a friend, and he and Liv helped me by feeding me coffee and cupcakes.”
“Liv too?” At least he’s just as upset about me telling Liv as Andre. It’s not about Andre being a gay man. He just doesn’t like his private life out in the open. “Why can’t we keep stuff between us, Dylan? You always tell your friends everything.”
“Not everything, just the important stuff.” I hold up a hand, shaking my head. “Let’s not pretend that the issue here is me looking for advice after one of the crappiest nights of my life. This is about you and me, Kian. You’re a dick when you’re around your colleagues, and you were a complete asshole to me. But more important than that… I don’t think you’re happy there at all. Nor that they’re going to make you partner. They’re narrow-minded, racist, homophobic assholes. Why the fuck do you still work there?”
He groans. “I know, I know, but I love the work, the money is good, and… Well, that.”
“The work and money will be the same at another firm.” I give Kian a pointed look. “You’re too good at your job to have to fear being unemployed. Even if it takes you a couple of months, you’ve got savings to help you through that. I think the problem is that you feel forced to be someone you’re not. It’s hurting you, it’s hurting me, and it’s hurting us.”
His eyes fill with tears now, and he looks down at his hands. “I never meant to hurt you. I love you. I’ve never felt this way about anyone, Dylan. I just don’t know… I’ve never had a relationship that lasted this long.”
“You were engaged,” I remind him.
He shakes his head. “Doesn’t count. I didn’t love her. That was me trying to fit into the mold. I’ve been with plenty of women, but that wasn’t the real me, you know? I feel like with you… I want this to work.” A tear slides down his cheek, and I want nothing more than to comfort him. “I need this to work. Please don’t leave me. I swear I can do better, Dylan.”
Fuck, he’s truly crying now. I can’t just sit here and stare at him. I finally get up and pull him into my arms, stroking his back. He clutches me like he’ll never let go, getting my shirt all wet. We stay like that for a long time, my mind going a million miles an hour. We don’t have a solution for our problems, but I can tell he wants to work on them. It won’t be easy, but I’m willing to put in the work if he is too.
“I’m not going anywhere,” I vow, squeezing him tightly. “We’ll figure it out.”
He makes a whimpering sound, pressing his face into my shirt. “Fuck, I’m such a mess,” he mutters. “Sorry.”
That makes me laugh. “You never have to apologize for being a mess. I love this mess a whole lot more than the asshole I was with last night.”
“You’re right.” He pulls back, wiping his eyes. “My colleagues are dicks. And I’m never going to make partner if I show them who I really am. I hate sports. Their jokes make me want to vomit. And I detest who I am around them.”
“So you’re gonna find another job?” I can’t believe he’s truly making that decision right now.
“Yeah, I think it’s time. I should have left when it became clear they didn’t make me partner last time simply for being gay. That’s such bullshit. I’m so much better than the guy they chose over me. I’ve got double his billable hours, my clients bring in loads of referrals, and I’m just…” He looks stronger now. “I’m damn good at what I do.”
“Yeah you are.” I give him a kiss. “I’m so proud of you.”
This is actually working on the problem. Not just something affecting our relationship, but an issue he’d even have if we weren’t together. His job doesn’t make him happy, and it should. Mine gives me so much joy, and I want that for him too. He loves the work already, so all he needs is a firm with lawyers who aren’t assholes. Can’t be that hard to find, right?
In fact… I think I know a lawyer with her own firm, and a large part of her firm handles custody cases and divorce battles.
“How about I put in a good word for you at Connor and Johnson?” I propose, hope surging up in me.
Kian’s eyes light up. “Right! I talked to Chloe’s husband last night, and he did say that Chloe has been struggling with her workload. She’s in the same field I am, and I’ve beaten her in court a couple of times. That might not seem like a good thing, but I bet she’d rather work with me than against me.”
“Let me call Annabel.” I take out my phone, but Kian shakes his head.
“I need to do this on my own. The right way. I’ll call her assistant and ask for a meeting with her and Chloe. If I’m gonna do this, I’m not going to be a junior partner for another five years. I want to be on the senior partner track right away. I want my name on the wall.”
I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of him in my life. “Okay. You do it your way. But I’m gonna be talking you up any chance I get, whether you want to or not. Which I was already doing before today, so I don’t even have to work for it.”
He laughs, his tears forgotten. “I swear I’ll work on us too. I know this won’t fix everything, but you’re right. It’s a start. Now call Mila.”
“Mila?” Where did she come from all of a sudden?
“To invite her and Scarlett over for dinner tomorrow.” He gives me a kiss. “I know you need me to try harder, babe, and I will. Call her. I’ll cook. You’ll…”
“Provide the entertainment?” I finish with a grin.
“Just like you always do,” he laughs. “Have I told you how much I love you yet?”
“Yes, you have, but tell me again.”
And he does. A hundred times over.