Thank you to the reviewers who gave me the ideas that fuelled this final chapter. I'll tell you who at the end! I hope they don't mind, and I hope you all like it.
Every one of your reviews has been eagerly read a million times – thanks everyone! Very, very, encouraging!
Abductors digiti minimi – the hand muscles running down the side of your hand towards the little finger.
There were some great moments that weekend. I mean, I'd offered to let him have his space, but he'd looked quite disappointed, and persuaded me to stay. I have to say it was a bit weird, like an extended slumber party with a fairly grumpy hypochondriac. But there were some great moments. The three of us watched movies and spent a lot of time on the couch. The two of us ate chocolate, drank red wine, and cooked together.
We went across the street and sat on the bench for old times sake – it was so cold we had to huddle under the picnic rug, but it had to be done. Fermat purred so loudly I thought he was going to explode! I think sitting there triggered something in Rodney. He told me about his friend Peter who had been killed in an accident. For a horrible moment I thought he would cry, but he kept it together. I didn't want to think about what might happen to Rodney.
Once, as we slouched on the couch, and Fermat was dozing in his lap, he told me he was going to look up his sister next time he was back. That would be a big thing for Rodney. In the spirit of sharing, I told him I'd realised I'd been comparing every date to him for the past twelve months. That had raised a smile! He gave me some great tips to weed out the brains from the bores. I assured him he could make a good impression if he tried a bit harder. That did not raise a smile.
He knew he would have to leave early on Monday morning. We were both up hours before we should have been, and drank coffee in the kitchen, waiting for the sun to rise, and the day to take him away.
A shrill sound pierced the sombre atmosphere. Rodney jerked to his feet, dashing into the lounge.
"That's my 'phone!" He explained, as he rummaged about in his bag. He managed to answer the call.
"What do you mean, where the hell am I?" Rodney spluttered. There was a pause as he listened.
"Oh. Right. Yes. Em, actually, I'm not there." He seemed to have genuinely failed to realise that whoever was collecting him would go to his apartment and not mine. Today's driver must have gone to his door, not just waited in the street and blasted the horn like the other day. I heard him tell the caller how to get up here.
He flipped his 'phone closed. He was muttering again, "Crap. John's coming for me." Then he seemed to realise it was time to go. He looked at me. "Well, I guess this is it."
"I hate goodbyes." I said.
"I guessed. You didn't bother last time." His teasing smile was enough to show he took the blame. "I'd better say goodbye to Fermat," he said, and went and gave the cat a huge cuddle, ruffling his fur the way Fermat would only take from Rodney.
He put Fermat back on the couch and came across to me, where I stood at the kitchen door, mug in hand. He took the mug from me and laid it down on the counter. Taking my hands in his, he looked me right in the eye.
"Are you going to be OK?" He asked. I could feel his thumbs on my abductors digiti minimi, rubbing them gently.
In his eyes I could see his worry that leaving was going to cause me pain. In a way, he was right, but I knew it would not be as deeply as it might have been under other circumstances. I needed to give him a truthful answer, I owed him that.
"Yes. I really think I will be. Don't worry about Fermat and me… I want you to write me, if you can." I gave him a hopeful look.
He looked relieved and pleased. "Well, I'll try. It might be possible…"
"I want to hear how you get on with that redhead!" I joked.
"I don't really think anyone…" his pessimism was interrupted by the sound of my doorbell.
Pulling my robe tightly around myself, I opened the door. A slim man with beautiful features and a shock of dark hair gave me the most winning smile. He looked behind me to spy Rodney getting his bag closed.
"Please, come in." I offered, and stood aside to let 'John' in.
Rodney waved one arm towards us and offered meagre introductions. I swear he was embarrassed, as he concentrated on the bag zipper.
John now had the biggest grin on his face. I knew his type, cheeky flyboy. Or at least, he seemed that way, but Rodney had mentioned him as one of his friends, and Rodney would not normally tolerate that type. John's eyebrows were well raised, studying my apartment to gain any pertinent clues as to Rodney's activities. He kept giving me charming and encouraging glances, to see if I would offer any telling pleasantries. I stayed silent, small smile on my lips.
Rodney finally got his bag sorted and made towards the door. Pausing, he turned around and gave me a very mixed look. Sad, happy, confused, all at once.
"Thank you." He said simply. John seemed quite disappointed, so I decided to make the effort.
I stepped forward, and put my arms around Rodney's neck. "Thank you, for the most wonderful weekend, " I said in the most sultry voice I could muster. I pulled him in for a full kiss, despite his look of horror. He didn't fight me, as my hand caressed the back of his head, and the kiss deepened. When I thought it would be enough, I pulled away a little, but whispered into his ear, "I mean it. Thank you. Just be safe."
As we stepped apart, and so John wouldn't see, I winked at him, with a big smile. He gave me a big smile back, looking a little abashed. He composed himself, before turning to leave with his friend.
John's face was a picture. Amusement and disbelief in his eyes, he seemed to study Rodney very closely as they left. Rodney merely gave a wave as they set off down the hall, and I waved back.
As I went in and closed the door, I knew that Rodney would deny everything to his friend. Truth to Rodney was very important, or at least his version of the truth. And I knew that I'd done enough for John to be at least curious, and possibly dismissive of Rodney's protestations. I was glad.
Leaning against the door, I watched Fermat stalk up to me and pause a little ways from my feet, ready to pounce. I opened my arms, and he leapt. Hugging him close, I put my face in his fur. As he dropped down, I couldn't help grinning. Rodney would be fine, and so would we.
Well, many thanks to NenyaVilyaNenya, and also dragonfairymaiden and Serina Kat, who all came up trumps! I hate sad endings, couldn't bear to write one!
Thank you everyone for reading.
That's all folks!