|Cristobal Rodriguez ♦ Coyote (coyoti) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-12-28 08:18:00
|Entry tags:||ares, coyote|
once you've had a diamond, a rhinestone just won't do
Who: Chris & Daniel.
What: An accidental run-in at the gym leads to more fighting.
Where: Pax gym.
When: Dec. 22
Beads of sweat found their way down his face as Chris gritted his teeth and did his best to lift the five-fucking-pound weight from its gently nestled spot in the machine's rack with his bad leg. The ice outside had given him a renewed purpose—that, and the fact that he had so much more free time now that neither Kal nor Daniel were talking to him. He decided that, having put off his physical therapy for so long, now was better than never. Slipping and sliding in the ice outside would only add insult to injury. For now, his cane was sitting just within reach leaning against another part of the machine—something he'd felt odd enough about walking through the Pax halls, but there wasn't much more he could do to damage his reputation at this point.
He was in the gym in the afternoon—a precarious time, he knew, but it was the best timeslot to work with his schedule. And, as he found it, it turned out to be a fairly deadzone time since most people either worked out in the morning or the early evening, tucking into weights and cardio around their work hours. So he wasn't expecting any other parties and frankly too distracted besides, between his attempt to lift the fucking weight and not feel like a completely useless lump of lard. His face turned beet red, but he pulled it up an inch off the ground, then let it slam back into its slot with a grunt.
Reaching for his towel, he buried his face in the terrycloth as he breathed harder than he ever had in his life, missing Daniel's entrance.
Daniel, on the other hand, froze immediately. He stood just inside the doorway, letting it close behind him but taking no further steps forward. He watched Chris for a moment. Then he cursed himself for the coward he was, ignored the color already rising to his cheeks—that dream, that damnable, vivid dream that had awakened him in the middle of the night, then proved so difficult to shake—and walked decisively toward the treadmills. Once there, he stretched for longer than was necessary before hopping onto the machine, though to his credit he never looked back at Chris.
The sound of another machine made Chris's shoulders tense, and he lowered the towel just enough to spy possibly the last person he wanted to see right now. Which was a complete lie, because he did want to see Daniel—just not like this. His eyes glanced toward his cane resting against the wall, and then toward Daniel's form on the treadmill. He could only see Daniel's back—a view he did not bemoan in the slightest—but the mirrors covering every wall showed a slim piece of Daniel's face.
Chris looked to his weights, his cane, and then back to Daniel, not sure what to do. Memories rose up&mdashp;not just of Halloween, but of their recent shared dream. Thankfully, his face was already red, hiding any embarrassment he might have displayed. And he decided that he wasn't going to feel pushed out just because Daniel was there. Maybe he could prove they could coexist in the same space, even for an hour.
So he turned his attention back to the weights, gripping the holding bars and steeling his shoulders as he went to move the dial even a little. He grunted, his leg shaking as the weight slowly rose from its place.
His continued silence was precisely what Daniel had thought he had wanted. In practice, though, it felt more lonely and unwelcome than he ever could have guessed. He frowned into the mirror before him and ramped up the speed on his treadmill. Throbbing, aggressive music pounded in his ears; he turned it up, as though that small thing would distract him from the man whose presence seemed to draw tight every muscle in his body. Daniel bit his tongue to stop himself from speaking.
He kept glancing into the mirror, peering at what small slivers of Chris the mirror allowed him to see. He hated himself for it, but he could no more stop that than he could stop running.
Up, Chris tried to command the weight, fully embracing the idea of mind over matter. Sadly, it wasn't some momentary magic that suddenly made the weight feather light, allowing him the full strain of stretching and working his muscles for less buck. The weights shivered in their casing, slowly rising, and then tumbling back down before they'd cleared more than an inch.
Chris breathed hard, grabbing the towel and leaning forward as he quickly cleaned himself up. He was still puffing as the towel went back on its bar, his hands reaching down to gently massage his screaming muscles. He could feel the weight of Daniel's gaze on him, and he could not stop himself from looking up as well, making contact with the mirrorverse version of the man whose heart he'd shattered. He held that gaze for a moment, knowing he should have the decency to look away, his jaw opening like he was about to start talking.
Then, mentally admonishing himself, Chris pulled his gaze back to the floor, back to his leg and the weights and the reason he was in the gym to begin with. Closing his eyes, he made a quick count of ten to prepare himself, and began to try to lift the weight once more; this time, his limbs shook, and the weight seemed to refuse to rise.
The treadmill slowed, then stopped, its soft electric hum just too quiet to fully conceal Daniel's grumbling. Daniel loosed one earbud and let it hang down the front of his shirt. "The fuck's wrong with you," he mumbled, circling the weight bench to stand behind Chris's head. "You need a spotter." A pang of guilt cut through him even as he said the words. He had no idea who Chris might have asked; Daniel himself had not spoken to Kal of late, and based on their last meeting, Daniel couldn't imagine Chris had done so either. Drawing a deep breath, Daniel exhaled on a sigh, and steadfastly avoided Chris's eyes as he situated himself accordingly.
"All right," he said, his hands resting lightly on the bar. "Just lemme know when you're ready."
Chris froze, his eyes unwillingly drawn to Daniel's form even as the other man refused his gaze. He knew he'd been struggling, but had it been that obvious? His hands resituated themselves, awkwardness written into every line of his limbs as he shifted on his seat.
"You don't have to do this," he said, voice low and rough. Exertion parted the words, heavy breathing indicating the next thing he said was a lie. He coughed, clearing his throat of the anxiety that had suddenly sprung up. "I'm fine, really."
"Yeah," Daniel said, "you are now 'cause I'm here. Now you won't drop the bar on your own fuckin' throat." He tried to hide his continued tension behind a veil of irritation. It only half worked; there was nothing for the color dusting his cheeks or the way he stood more still than was typical, as though ready to bolt at the first sign it was necessary. He met Chris's eyes, but only for the briefest instant. Then they returned to the bar, and he crooked his fingers in a quick beckoning motion. "Let's go."
Despite Daniel's goading, Chris remained paralyzed in place. He was not in a good position in any regard; and after Kal's eager idea of conversing, Chris wasn't sure Daniel wouldn't want to do the same. He felt himself shriveling in response.
"It's... It's kind of hard to concentrate when you look like you both don't wanna be here and like you'd like to drop a weight on my face," he finally said, his breathing slowly easing.
Daniel's lips thinned to a fine line. At last he looked down and met Chris's eyes. He hid nothing of the tangle of emotions that lingered in his gaze, the warring anger and loneliness and futile hope hiding there. "I don't," was his vague reply. "And I think you're just lookin' for excuses." He raised the bar from its cradle and handed it to Chris, his grip secure until he was certain it was safe to let go. "So suck it up and get to work. C'mon. We're gonna do five sets, just three reps each. Got it?"
"Fine," Chris replied, the word small and fizzled. He arched his shoulders, teeth grinding as he worked to lift the weights once more. Sweat beaded along his brow, his whole face turning red as he struggled to lift the weight even a fraction of an inch higher than its resting state. It all came back down even more quickly than before. Daniel frowned down at Chris, his hands hovering just below the rack.
"Why," he said, gasping a little for air, "don't we start with one set, one rep each?"
"Fine. One. Can you do that without complaining?" Daniel almost folded his arms over his chest, but paused before doing so, unwilling to be the reason Chris stalled any further. His fingers curled loosely around the bar once more.
His voice softened, against all his intentions. "Good to see you in here," he muttered. "Gettin' a head start on a new year's resolution or somethin'?"
"Uh, sort of," he replied, prepping himself to attempt to lift again. "Just... the ice and snow outside got me thinking. Been putting off working on my leg for awhile, and now that there's a danger to getting there and back from my car..." He shrugged, sweat stains marking the small path of his shoulders on the padded cushion holding him up.
"So, trying to...just get my leg in shape." His hands gripped, his heel grounding itself as his shin was neatly tucked against the padded arm that he was kicking against. "Probably should've started sooner, but you know how much I like to put things off," he added, a small chuckle preceding the deprecation.
"Uh-huh." There was a note of bitterness in Daniel's voice whose origins were no great mystery. But he remained wary and alert, mindful of the position of Chris's hands, his body, directing him to move when his posture seemed to slip. "Well, good. Hopefully the snow won't last, but it's better to be prepared."
Daniel cleared his throat, visibly uncomfortable. His face had returned to its usual shade, indicating he had put thoughts of the dream behind him. But this was still no comfortable situation, and he saw no easy path forward or through it. He shifted his weight, his hands sliding too close to Chris's on the bar as he did.
"So, uh, thanks for the Christmas present. I think that was you, anyway."
"It was." Chris didn't see a point in beating around the bush. The gift he'd left in front of Daniel's door had been selected with careful thought, and he wasn't about to let anyone else take credit.
"Lemme know how the beer works out," he said, hopeful, knowing he didn't have any right to be. His hands curled around their grips, his leg ready to try once more. "So that was one, right, but I guess we're going again?"
Daniel left unsaid the fact that the package had gone directly into his kitchen closet. From there it had gone to the cabinet beneath the sink, his bedroom closet, the small hallway closet (where it kept the door from closing), then back into the kitchen closet. Out of sight had not meant out of mind, in this case. He had toyed with the idea of using the kit, thereby ridding himself of it in some way, but the idea of making the food and drink and having no-one to share it with—particularly the person who had given it to him—was entirely unappealing.
He said none of this, though a great deal of it might be inferred from his expression.
"Stop stallin'," he said. "Let's go."
Chris saw the indecision on Daniel's face, the fact that he was less than happy with the gift—a fact that was not a surprise in the slightest—but he also didn't look entirely unpleased by the fact that it had happened. He said nothing, however, and instead readied himself for another 'set' of one. Gritting his teeth, he managed to raise the weight the same distance as before, but it soon clattered back into place. Not for the first time, he was glad he was alone—or at least the only person to witness his humiliation was someone who, hopefully, wasn't going to go spread it around the building.
He grabbed his towel and rubbed it over his face, though he never for a moment brought it high enough to block his sight of Daniel. A question nagged in the back of his mind, eventually making its way forward.
"You got plans for Christmas?"
"Why&mdash:" Daniel's jaw went tight, cutting short the question immediately sprung to mind. His nostrils flared as he gave a derisive little snort. He shook his head. "No. Thought about goin' home but if I moved across the country to avoid havin' to sit through any more Christmas concerts."
Daniel's hands settled back into place above the bar, clearly waiting for Chris's next move. What was less clear, however, was how he intended to proceed from here. He shifted uncomfortably, meeting Chris's eyes once more. "Uh. You?"
Chris's shoulders rose and fell. "Probably go to my mom's. Visit my abuela." An invite rested in the back of his throat, choking him. He knew it was too soon for something like that.
"Look, I do want to say... I'm sorry? I'm sorry for the way things went down, how you...you and Kal found out..."
"Oh is that what you're sorry for?" Daniel pulled his hands away from the bar. He folded his arms across his chest and took a step back from the bench. His eyes narrowed all the more the longer he stared at his ex. "That you got caught? That I got to hear about you sellin' us out from the guy you sold us to? Not that I got my fuckin' leg broken, or that BB almost died, or that god knows whatever happened to Brent and Abel and who knows who else while you were playin' dumb? Unfuckinbelievable, Chris.
"You know I actually believed you? I should'a figured, who drops the first L-bomb in a nightclub bathroom of all places, I'm the fuckin' idiot who thought you meant it, but fuck me, man."
Chris slid forward in his seat, clearly wanting to rise and put himself on equal footing as Daniel, but feeling less than capable sans his brace. His hands rose as though he wanted to hit pause on the torrent of words coming out of Daniel's mouth.
"Wait, just...jesu christo, Daniel," he muttered, checking his anger before it ruined the situation any further.
"I am sorry for all of that, but it was out of my hands, and if you'd just let me explain—" He cut himself off, realizing how he sounded.
"Nope. Nuh-uh." Daniel raised his hands. "See, that's the thing. I don't have to listen to this shit anymore. I don't have to let you explain, which we both know means lying through your fuckin' teeth and findin' some way to distract me. You don't give a shit, Coyote doesn't give a shit, and I'm better off without you both."
In no way did Daniel seem convinced of his own words, but this did not keep him from trying to will them into reality. His jaw clenched and loosened with rhythmic motions, until the fight seemed to drain—for the moment—from him. His hands fell to his sides, balled into fists.
"I dunno what you want me to tell you, man."
Chris lurched to his feet, balancing as best he could on one leg while holding himself aloft with a hand on the machine behind him.
"I don't want you to say anything," he shot back, shaking his head. The volume of his voice had risen considerably, enough that if anyone else had been in the gym, they wouldn't have had to try to eavesdrop. "Look, I know... I know I suck at this. Coyote had the right idea making Ares shut his mouth for five fucking seconds, though," he half muttered, his cheeks flaring red. Daniel gritted his teeth and pretended he didn't feel his own deep blush.
"I didn't lie," he continued, his eyes reaching back to Daniel's, holding his gaze. "I meant what I said, and I wish it had been better but I have zero fucking control over my own goddamn life. The only thing I want from you is a second fucking chance." His face burned, but his eyes didn't waver. His voice dropped, what was said next meant only for them.
"I love you, Daniel. Please. Give me another chance," he pleaded.
"There it is," Daniel said. "God, you sure do know how to play me. But I'm listenin' now, Chris, really listening, and all you're really sayin' is nothing's changed. You've got no control, no choice, no options. You still don't fuckin' get it."
Daniel took another step back, as though he did not trust himself to be so close. His fingers laced loosely together, his joined hands coming to rest at the crown of his head. "I love you too, you asshole. But I already gave you your second chance, and you lied then, too. Believe it or not, I actually do learn. Sometimes it takes me a few rounds of gettin' fucked over, but eventually I learn."
Chris stood there, unable to move closer despite how much he wanted to. Fingertips were the only thing attaching him to the machine, the rest of him precariously balanced on one leg. His jaw tightened, anger blooming a different shade of red over his face.
"So that's it? You give me the one shot, which, I might add, added up to you two storming into my apartment and yelling at me, obviously already having made up your minds—" He cut himself off, shaking his head. "You're a shit transition officer, you know? Is this what you do to all the guys you get saddled with? You know a mindset is hard to fucking break, but nope, fuck 'em. Just fuck 'em because they can't be helped, huh?
"Or would you prefer I went to jail first? Would that make it better, Daniel? Would that make me worth your fucking time?"
"Fuck you, Chris." Daniel's face had flushed hot, red to his very hairline. "I got shot at for you. I got rid of a murder weapon for you. And now I don't even know if— Don't you fucking dare—" He took a step closer, his body a taut wire of nervous energy waiting to be spent, nails digging into his balled-up palms so hard they almost broke skin.
"You weren't my client, you were my fuckin' boyfriend. I thought we could make this work, even deep in a locked fuckin' closet, just like you wanted. What, you wanna make more excuses now? I begged you to be honest with me. How many fuckin' times? Huh? So why the fuck would you be honest now? I can't trust a fuckin' word you say, and I still can't get you outta my head, so congratulations, I guess you fuckin' win."
"Woo!" Briefly, Chris's hand left the machine as he thrust both arms in the air in a mock victory pump. He swayed, bringing his hand swiftly back to its anchor point. "What the fuck do I win? Losing everything in my life? Look, this is hard for me, OK? I did my best to keep you out of my life, because I knew this would happen! I just want you, Daniel, and if you'd give me a fucking chance..." He sucked in a breath, then looked away from the man standing across from him. Slowly, Chris shambled one step to grab his cane, letting him close a little distance between himself and Daniel.
"I know I've been shit. I know I don't deserve you. I still want you, Daniel, if you'd just let me explain. I'm..." Chris's jaw worked, his eyes searching Daniel's face. "Please don't make me be alone again."
"I'm not makin' you do shit." The fight had bled from Daniel's voice. All that remained was tired resignation, a gnawing loneliness, and a certainty that all this shouting had done nothing but widen the rift between them. "You did this. I've moved on." A lie, but close enough to the truth to possibly be believed; Daniel hoped his stoic expression sold it. "You want anything else from me, or Kal, or anybody here, you've gotta prove it, and I'm not waitin' around for that to happen. Anything really changes, you come see me, all right?"
Something cruel rose up in him, then, some dark protective instinct in the midst of all this hurt, and as he turned away he couldn't resist one final jab. "But y'know, text first, in case Mercy's over."
Chris winced as though Daniel had physically struck him. His mouth worked for a minute, eyes blinking like his vision was failing.
"Seriously? You... Seriously?" His brain seemed to have trouble processing the words Daniel had just spat in his face. Slowly, he shook his head, his mouth curving downward.
"All that about just wanting one person, huh? And I'm the liar?" Pressing his teeth together, he shook his head once more before turning to grab his towel and stooping as best he could to collect a water bottle on the floor near the machine he'd been using. Then he headed toward the door, doing his best to hold his expression to hide the hurt that he felt. It slipped just enough that, if Daniel cared to look, he would be rewarded with the reaction he seemed to have wanted.
Daniel did see, though it was only a glimpse, quick enough to tell himself the expression had not been there at all. And if it had been pain he saw, he told himself that's precisely what he wanted, the very response he had been angling for. So why, he wondered, did it feel like a knife in his own gut? He grit his teeth and kept his silence, watching his once-partner leave. Only then, with no-one to see him, as he mounted the treadmill once more, did he allow his shoulders to slump and his expression to sag into the solemn sadness he truly felt.