Then Came You... - 4. Chapter 4...Bargaining
Everyone thinks they have the solution...Max, go back to school, Cody manage Drake's time and Drake...he realizes he doesn't have a solution at all...
He sat in his car drumming his fingers against the steering wheel, debating whether to go inside. It seemed like a good idea on the drive over but now he wasn’t so sure. He took a deep breath, chewing nervously on the inside of his cheek rationalizing with himself. He needed to do this. It had been two months and not much had changed in the way of Drake’s behavior. To him it was as if Drake had become obsessed, namely with Max. He understood the promise Drake made to Brad, to look after Maxwell, but this was a bit much and he wasn’t being insensitive in the least. As a matter of fact, he was looking out for everyone…including himself. It was time to let go and move on, to get things back to normal.
“A or B?” Maxwell squinted at the computer screen as his fingers rested anxiously above the keys. He pursed his lips, closed his eyes, struck the key and waited… “YES!”
He pumped his fist excitedly in the air. He was just finishing his on-line exam when the doorbell rang. He released a frustrated sigh before pushing himself up from his chair. His mind was still pondering the next test question as he made his way to the door. He glanced back over his shoulder one last time before opening it.
“Hey, Max.” Cody waved with a friendly smile. Maxwell tilted his head slightly, resting his hand against the door, his expression clearly registering surprise. “Can I come in?” Cody nodded over Maxwell’s shoulder.
“Um, yeah…sure,” he smiled while stepping aside. He scratched behind his ear while studying Cody’s form as he surveyed the room. Max took a long deep breath before closing the door.
“Everything looks the same.” Cody blurted out.
“Huh?” Maxwell questioned, taken aback.
“I’m sorry,” Cody looked over his shoulder, “I just mean…” he sighed, his words getting lost as he spoke, “What I meant to say was...” he frowned.
Maxwell stepped back, crossing his arms tightly over his chest and arched his brow skeptically.
“What… you expected it to look different now that Brad is dead?” Maxwell asked with a hint of sarcasm.
“I deserved that I guess.” Cody grimaced. “It’s just…” He combed his fingers through his hair, feeling regret. The silence between them was awkward and Maxwell didn’t understand why. They were friends after all.
“No, I’m sorry.” Maxwell finally spoke up, apologized and placed his hand on Cody’s shoulder reassuringly. They shared a sad smile before pulling each other into a tight hug.
“It’s good to see you,” Maxwell whispered. “I’m glad you stopped by.” He released his hold on Cody and offered him a seat. “Can I get you something to drink?” Maxwell offered while fidgeting with his fingers, “I was just about to make myself some tea.”
“That would be great.” Cody accepted graciously as he relaxed on the sofa. He placed his hands in his lap as he absorbed his surroundings. A lot had changed since the last time he was here, and he had to admit, the place looked great. It didn’t look lived in however, since everything was perfectly in its place. It actually reminded him of something from a home fashion magazine. Very eclectic…very neat, a definite combination of both Brad’s and Maxwell’s varied styles.
“Here you go,” Maxwell’s voice captured his attention upon entering the room. Maxwell set the tray on the table and Cody waited patiently for Maxwell to take his seat before reaching for his cup.
“Everything looks amazing.” He complimented as he dipped the teabag in and out of the steaming hot water.
“Thank you,” Maxwell replied as he too glanced around the living room “I figured I needed to clean the place up. Drake all but calls me a slob.” he giggled thinking about the last conversation he and Drake had about how messy the place was. “Scratch that he did call me a slob…a couple of times.” he corrected as he spooned in the sweetener.
“Wow, that wasn’t very nice.” Cody frowned before blowing over his cup of tea.
“No, it’s okay,” Maxwell laughed as he relaxed in his seat, “he’s the only one who can get away with saying stuff like that to me and I think he knows it.” he stated while tucking his leg beneath him and taking a sip from his mug.
“Hhmmm…” Cody nodded. He mimicked Maxwell’s action, taking another sip of his tea before setting the cup on the table. “So how are you, really?” He asked, his tone soft and genuine.
Maxwell sighed, setting his cup down as well. He combed his fingers through his hair as he pondered the question.
“I’m getting by.” he answered honestly, “Some days are harder than others. I miss him so much.” he swallowed back the tears that threatened to fall. He bobbed his head pressing his lips together tightly and took a deep breath. Cody watched the waves of emotion wash over their friend and he almost felt sorry for coming. He knew this had to be hell for him.
“I know you do.” Cody reached for Maxwell’s hand giving it a gentle squeeze.
“Drake has been amazing through all this. He convinced me not to put off going back to school.” Maxwell admitted with a fond smile as he nodded toward the computer and the stack of books that surrounded it.
“Yeah, he told me. Liberal Arts, right?”
“Yep, that and finally going back to work keeps me busy, so I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself.”
“Drake is amazing,” Cody agreed with admiration. “It’s like something from a movie huh?”
“What,” Maxwell smiled even though he was slightly confused by the comment.
“I mean, there you are, just dropped out of school, didn’t know what you were going to do with your life and you were working as a bartender in a gay club, then those two walked in.” Cody said with a trace of jealously tainting his tone. Maxwell frowned, uncertain as to where this conversation was heading, but humored him nonetheless.
“Yeah, I guess you could say that.” he admitted, “It was after the ‘Gay Pride’ parade and the club was packed that night.” he stated pensively.
“And it could have been anyone of those guys there that night, but it was you,” Cody smiled as he reached for his cup.
“I’m sorry…” Maxwell knitted his brows together tightly, “I don’t understand.”
“Nothing.” Cody shrugged, “I’m just saying you were lucky that’s all.” Maxwell noticed there was something off in his voice, but let it pass.
“I actually was lucky, both Brad and Drake are… were amazing.” he corrected his reference to Brad, “And Drake, I don’t know what I would do without him.”
“This is partly why I’m here, aside from wanting to check up on you, of course,” Cody added before taking a sip of his tea. “Drake…”
“Is everything okay with him?” Maxwell asked anxiously, his tone, an octave higher as he tried to keep the panic he was feeling at bay.
“He’s tired.” Cody nodded slowly, “though he won’t admit it.”
“He did look a little tired when he stopped by here.” Maxwell said reaching for his cup. He was adding more splenda to his tea so he didn’t notice the perplexed expression on Cody’s face. Cody shifted uncomfortably in his seat trying to hide his obvious discomfort.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” Cody said as he scratched his forehead contemplatively. “I honestly think he’s doing too much. With the longs hours he’s been keeping at the hospital, his patient load has increased dramatically.”
“I know Drake is always trying to help.” Maxwell shook his head, “I told him that if he didn’t stop coming around and showing up at my job, people were going to start taking.” Maxwell laughed comfortably before taking a sip of tea. “They’ve given him a nickname at the Townhouse.” he said teasingly as he swallowed another mouthful of tea.
“Oh yeah… a nickname eh?” Cody sat back and arched his brow, forcing a smile. “And what would that be?”
“The night watchman,” Maxwell laughed with a faraway look in his eyes. “Anyway, you were saying?” He asked redirecting the attention back to Cody.
“Yeah, um, I really think Drake needs to slow down a bit. I was actually thinking about going on a holiday. You know, get him out of town to insure he gets some rest.”
“That sounds like a great idea.” Maxwell said with enthusiasm, “if there’s anything I can do to help…”
“As a matter of fact there is.” Cody smiled. He leaned forward resting his elbows on his knees. “You see…” he started out, choosing his words carefully, “you can let him see that you don’t need him as much as he thinks you do.”
“Okayyy” Maxwell nodded with a questioning gaze.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Cody interjected quickly, “I know it’s hard on you, losing your husband suddenly, but…”
“You think I’m taking too much of Drake’s time, is that it?” Maxwell surmised.
“At the risk of sounding insensitive…yes,” Cody finally admitted, “I just think that with him worrying about you all the time, he’s not taking care of himself. And it’s starting to show.”
“I’m sorry.” Maxwell stated clearly concerned, “I figured him being here all the time would start to create problems…”
“No, not problems. Drake and I are solid,” he stated convincingly, “As a matter of fact we started house hunting together.”
“Really?” Maxwell offered a sincere smile, “I wonder why he never mentioned it.”
“Too busy taking care of me.” Maxwell frowned finishing Cody’s sentence. He was actually starting to feel guilty for taking up so much of Drake’s time. He figured Drake was just being sensitive by not mentioning him and Cody getting a house together. Seeing couples happy and moving on with their lives still saddened him a bit and Drake understood that.
“That’s not what I was going to say.”
“I get it.” Maxwell chewed on his lower lip. “And I’ll do what you asked.”
“Thank you.” Cody smiled kindly as he attempted to stand. “I really appreciate it.”
“No worries, anything for Drake, you know that.” Maxwell replied as he pushed himself off the sofa. He placed his hand on Cody’s shoulder as he led him to the door. “Thanks for stopping by.” he said while opening the door.
“Thanks for the tea.” Cody smiled before stepping into the hallway. “Oh,” he glanced back over his shoulder and smiled, “good luck with school.”
“Well, thanks.” Maxwell returned a kind smile before closing the door behind him. He rested his back against it and sighed as he combed his fingers through his hair. He scratched the side of his neck, slightly amused before heading back to the computer.
Cody had just pushed play on the CD player and smiled softly as the smooth jazz filled the air. Everything was going as planned and he felt quite pleased with himself. He was sure that Maxwell would keep his word, whether he wanted to or not. Maxwell meant it when he said he would do anything for Drake. Before Brad died the three of them were thick as thieves. It was as if they were in a world of their own and one to which only they were privy too.
He remembered it like it was yesterday, the first time he laid eyes on him, it was hot that day. It felt like a 100 degrees even in the shade. Drake was leaning against the wall by the men’s restroom with his foot propped behind him. He was wearing a pair of khaki shorts and a plain white wife beater. His dark hair, laced with sweat and matted to his forehead, but that didn’t matter as he looked stunning anyway. What really got him was when Drake removed his sunglasses revealing his smoky gray eyes.
Drake gave him a short approving nod as their eyes met, each one checking the other out. He was confused when a short blond guy emerged from the restroom and wrapped his arm around Drake’s waist, pulling him off the wall. It wasn’t until Brad showed up with their beers and he and the blond shared a heated kiss that he figured out Maxwell and Brad was a couple.
Cody’s heart skipped several beats when he heard the lock on the door turn. An excited smile formed as he watched the expression on Drake’s face. Drake’s eyes lit up and he placed his hand over his heart.
“Wow!” he chuckled approvingly as he closed the door behind him. He glanced around the room nodding approvingly and smiled. “So is this the reason for the text that said ‘come straight home - it’s important!’”
“Hey…” Cody chewed nervously on his lower lip while watching as Drake made his way over to him.
“Hey, yourself.” He reached out taking Cody’s hand into his own even as he pulled him into an embrace. He kissed him tenderly on the mouth receiving an approving moan before pulling back. He inhaled deeply as Cody stared at him adoringly.
“What’s that I smell?” Drake smiled swaying them both gently in their embrace. “Don’t tell me you made my favorite.”
“Bourbon chicken,” Cody replied proudly. He leaned forward stealing a quick kiss before pulling from Drake’s embrace. “Have a seat while I check on dinner and get you a brandy.”
“Oohhh…” Drake bounced his brows excitedly while taking off his coat. He sat down and rested his back against the sofa and casually crossed one leg over the other. The condo was spotless just the way he liked it. Cody had gone all out and he wondered what he owed this unexpected pleasure. The nice mixture of soft jazz and warm spices was intoxicating and very relaxing, just what he needed after a long day. He glanced up just as Cody entered the living room carrying a warm brandy in one hand and a napkin in the other.
“Here you go.”
“Thank you,” Drake smiled while reaching for the glass, “wait,” He looked up before taking a small sip “where’s yours?”
“In the kitchen. I’m just finishing up.”
“Well, let me help.” Drake offered as he started to get up.
“No…” Cody gently pushed him back down, “stay put.”
“No buts!” Cody insisted. “Let me pamper you tonight.”
“Okay.” Drake chuckled softly as he settled back in his seat. “I feel funny just doing nothing.”
“That’s because you’re used to doing so much.” Cody countered though a soft smile while biting on his lower lip. “Tonight is about you.”
“Okay.” Drake conceded taking another sip of his drink.
“I’ll be right back.”
“I’ll call Max while I wait.” Drake said as he pulled his cell phone from his pocket, “I tried to reach him earlier.” he said while scrolling through his contacts. Cody sighed and shook his head before heading into the kitchen.
Drake entered the dining room, finishing off his brandy, just as Cody set the casserole dish on the table.
“I was just about to call you.” He looked up and smiled as he removed his oven mitts.
“Perfect timing eh?” Drake replied while eyeing the beautiful mixed flower arrangement that adorned the table set for two.
“Wow…” Drake exclaimed in awe, “everything looks amazing.”
“Have a seat.” Cody pulled out his chair and motioned for Drake to sit.
“I don’t know what to say.” Drake said even as he scooted his chair up to the table. He caressed the small of Cody’s back as he watched him prepare their plates. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Cody smiled as he took his seat across from Drake.
“Mmmm…” Drake moaned as he slowly pulled the fork from between his lips. He closed eyes savoring the rich flavors that teased his palate.
“Delicious,” he sighed approvingly before digging into his plate again.
Cody smiled proudly as he placed his napkin across his lap. “Did you get Max?” He asked curiously before picking up his fork. He held his breath anxiously waiting for a reply.
“As a matter of fact I didn’t.” Drake informed him between chews. “I left him a message to call me. I wonder where he is.”
“Well Drake, Max is a big boy, remember.” Cody replied as he cut into his chicken.
“I remember but I also know he’s still grieving and that can be overwhelming.” He pointed out while reaching for his glass of water.
“Sure,” Cody agreed before bringing his fork to his mouth, “I understand that, but what about you?”
“I don’t think so, but I have a solution to that.” Cody stated excitedly.
“Oh yeah.” Drake arched his brow while Cody bounced his suggestively.
“Yep.” Cody placed his fork on his plate and lifted it, revealing a white legal size envelope underneath.
“What’s that?” Drake peered under the plate skeptically.
“It’s for you,” Cody nodded, “Go ahead, take it.” He grinned as Drake hesitantly reached for the envelope.
“What is it?” He asked even as he cautiously pulled out two tickets. “Oh my god.” he gasped with wide eyes. Cody’s smile widened, as did Drake’s, when he read the information on the front. “You got me deep sea fishing tickets off the coast?” He questioned with excitement, “Wow!” He chuckled as he continued reading the itinerary.
“I figured you’d like it.” Cody beamed, “I know how much you love to fish.” He smiled with a slight shrug of the shoulder.
“I can’t believe this. Thank you.” Drake pushed himself up from the table and made his way over to Cody. “I feel like ‘king for a day.’” he said wrapping his arms around Cody’s shoulders, pulling him into a tight hug. “I love it!”
“You’re my king everyday.” Cody smiled as he tilted his cheek up to accept Drake’s kiss.
“So…” Drake rubbed his hands together briskly, almost bouncing on the tips of his toes, “all we have to do now is pick a good time to go.”
“Well, if you look closer at the tickets you’ll see I’ve taken the liberties.”
“We leave next week.”
“Next week?” Drake parroted incredulously, “I can’t go next week.” He said as he made his way back to his seat.
“Patient’s. I have patients remember?” He tilted his head slightly as if it were obvious.
“Can’t you get an on-call doctor to take your patients?” Cody asked as he slid his plate aside. “I mean, we don’t leave till next week, which should give you plenty of time.” He reasoned. Drake sighed shaking his head.
“Baby, I can’t just leave at the drop of a hat, these things have to be planned. You know that. Not to mention I have other people depending on me. I just can’t.” he shrugged.
“People?” Cody challenged.
“Max, you mean.” Cody corrected, his tone becoming indignant.
“What does this have to do with Max?”
Drake leaned back picking up on the change in Cody’s demeanor and frowned. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Listen Drake, I get that Brad is dead and Max is grieving, but come on, he’s not the first person to experience the loss of a loved one, nor will he be the last. Not to mention he’s a grown man and you’re treating him like a child. Sneaking over there everyday…”
“Sneaking?” Drake questioned abruptly.
“I don’t sneak anywhere.” Drake advised, clearly offended.
“Well, you didn’t tell me you were seeing Maxwell every day.” Cody countered crossing his arms tightly over his chest.
“I do a lot in the course of the day. I didn’t know I had to account for my every move. I don’t expect that from you.”
“Then, why didn’t you mention it?” Cody challenged accusingly, “You know, say something like, ‘I saw Max today and…’”
“You never asked.”
“I wouldn’t think I’d need to.” Cody retorted, “I mean you make it sound like Max is so needy I would think it would be important enough to mention, unless…”
“What?” Drake asked heatedly.
“You don’t want me to know.”
“I don’t care if you know.” Drake defended adamantly while meeting Cody’s skeptical gaze head on. “I have nothing to hide. Wait, did you go see…” Drake furrowed his brows tightly.
“Then there’s the Townhouse.” Cody snarled, before Drake could finish, “Mr. Watcher.” he snorted humorlessly.
“Where is all this coming from?” Drake scratched his head in confusion, “Because I said I can’t leave next week, all of a sudden I’m sneaking around behind your back… and with Max no less! How crazy is that!”
“Is it?” Cody arched his brow, as he eyed Drake challengingly. “Is it crazy?”
“Wait…” Drake shook his head in disbelief and began laughing sarcastically, “actually it is, being you’re the one with the trust issues and the tinted track record.” Cody’s eyes widened and his jaw relaxed in amazement.
“You know what,” Cody spat jumping up from his seat, “just forget it. Forget it.” He huffed as he snatched his plate off the table and headed toward the kitchen.
“No, let’s not!” Drake demanded as he too pushed himself up from the table and followed Cody.
“I don’t understand.” Cody stated angrily while scraping the uneaten food into the disposal. “I tried to make you this nice dinner and plan a nice holiday for us. For US!” He screamed losing control of his temper, “And you want to throw my past mistakes in my face. That’s so unfair!” He argued through labored breath even as he forcefully turned on the faucet. Drake placed his hands on the counter and leaned closer, towering over Cody and whispered in his ear.
“You took it there sweetheart.” He stated brazenly. “The little house that daddy built is made of glass.” His cold callused words sent chills down Cody’s spine. Cody dropped the plate in the sink causing it to shatter against the porcelain. He spun around on his heel coming face to face with Drake and, if looks could kill, Drake would have fallen to his death right there.
“That might be true,” he smirked, “but I obviously wasn’t playing in it alone. You knew the deal!”
“Yeah, I did, but poor Chance didn’t know you were stepping out on him.” Drake charged, “So how many others were there when you added me to the list?” Drake spat back.
He didn’t see it coming, though he should have, for as soon as the words left his mouth he felt the sting of Cody’s hand slap him across the face. His head jerked to the side and his hand instinctively reached for his face. A cruel smile slowly replaced the look of disbelief. He smirked using his tongue to caress the inside of his cheek.
“That stung.” he said with a condescending smile playing across his lips. He was sure by the stunned expression on Cody’s face that he understood the double meaning of his words.
“Why you…” Cody brought his hand back and swung. Drake’s hand caught it in mid air, causing Cody to writhe under his grip.
“Ah-ah-ah, you hit me again, I might just hit you back.” He warned as he tightened his grip around Cody’s hand.
“Let me go!” Cody demanded.
“Are you going to hit me again?” Drake asked with an arched brow. He tightened his grip even tighter as Cody struggled to break free.
“I said let me go, damn it!”
“Answer my question.” Drake insisted, his voice still calm. They were in a standoff, brown eyes staring down stormy gray ones. A battle of resolve waged as Cody’s began to weaken.
“No…” he muttered under his breath.
“Huh…” Drake leaned forward; placing his free hand to his ear, “What did you say?”
“No!” Cody replied in a heated tone, “Now let me go Drake.”
“Okay.” Drake obliged hesitantly before cautiously releasing Cody’s hand.
Cody scowled while cradling his hand. He rolled his eyes, inhaling deeply, before forcefully pushing past Drake.
“Cody!?!” Drake reached out to grab his arm but Cody twisted from his grasp. Drake sighed as he combed his fingers though his hair.
“Cody…” he sighed, “I’m sorry I shouldn’t have said that, I deserved it.” he apologized regretfully, “Come back, so we can talk…please.”
“Go to hell Drake!” Cody called back over his shoulder as he stormed out of the kitchen.
“Cody!” Drake ran after him but he was too late. He reached the living room just as Cody slammed the door behind him.
“Shit…” Drake sighed as he looked around the now empty apartment. He dropped down on the sofa, running his hand through his hair, before resting his head in the palm of it.
He’d done it again… pissed Cody off when all he was doing was trying to look out for him. Was there any validly to Cody’s accusations? Was he treating Maxwell like a child… hovering? How did what started out as the perfect evening end up so bad? And why did he react the way he did when Cody mentioned Maxwell’s name? He needed another drink as he tried to sort this all out. He also needed to make things right with Cody. He sighed as he pushed himself up from the sofa and headed to the dining room to make that drink. As he swallowed hard, his eyes landed on the tickets.
“There’s just no way,” he voiced his thoughts to no one in particular. He was about to take another sip when he heard the doorbell. “Cody?” He mouthed hopefully as he hurried to the door with a sense of urgency.
“Cody, I’m so glad you came back, I’m…” He exclaimed but stopped mid-sentence. His features relaxed upon recognizing the warm smile that greeted him.
Lines are crossed, boundries are set and hearts are broken....
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