When Chas walked in the apartment, it was utterly silent.
He put his hat and backpack down by the door, looking around warily. He finally saw John, sitting by the window in his wheelchair.
His eyes were red. Bloodshot.
He'd been crying.
John blinked, glanced at Chas, but didn't respond. Chas stepped closer, and then he noticed an envelope in John's hands.
It was the letter from UCLA.
"John, listen, about what I said…"
"You turned them down?" John asked hoarsely, looking down at the envelope. "You stayed to help me?"
Chas paused, chewing nervously on his lower lip. "Yeah. Yeah, I did."
Another long silence. Chas stepped closer.
"I didn't mean to yell at you."
"I deserved it," John said quietly, one finger trailing along the edge of the envelope. "I needed to hear it."
Chas wasn't about to argue. John had deserved it, by all means, and he didn't regret saying it; he simply regretted the tone he used in saying it.
"You've got to be starving. I'll get started on dinner," Chas said, turning to head for the counter, but John grabbed his arm to stop him.
"No. You sit. I'll make it."
Chas smiled nervously. "John, really. I don't mind."
"I said sit down, I meant it. Sit."
Chas was going to argue more, but John looked so damn determined that he didn't want to ruin it for him. He sat down at the table, staring at the tabletop as John wheeled himself over to the refrigerator.
"Where'd you go?" John asked after a few moments. "You're soaking wet."
"Not far. Just to the church."
"Why'd you come back?"
Chas smirked, able to feel the weight of the rosary in his pocket. "I had a change of heart."
He heard the sound of the microwave starting, and then John wheeled up next to him at the table. "Or is it just that you didn't have anywhere else to go."
Chas sighed softly. "I wouldn't have come back if I didn't want to. There are plenty of homeless shelters around here."
"I wouldn't let you stay in one of those."
The microwave dinged, and John wheeled over and got the food out of it, setting it down on the table. It was only two plates of warmed up leftover Chinese food, but to Chas it was a heavenly feast. He started eating with fervor.
John watched on, one eyebrow quirked, his fork hovering above his plate.
"Chas…when was the last time you ate something?"
Chas chewed thoughtfully, and then shrugged. "Not too long ago…"
"A few days?"
John groaned and rolled his eyes. "Why didn't you say something earlier? You're gonna kill yourself…"
Chas shrugged again. "It's not that big a deal," he muttered through a mouthful of rice.
"It is. It is. I mean, look at you. You look...you look sick, Chas."
"Aw, thanks," Chas said sarcastically.
"I'm being serious. And…and I didn't even notice before."
"I didn't expect you to."
"But you wanted me to."
Chas didn't have an answer for that. He swallowed hard and stopped eating for a few moments.
"You meant everything you said?" John asked after an awkward silence. "Everything?"
Chas stared at his food, and then slowly looked up at John. "What are you asking me, John?"
"You said you loved me."
Chas's breath caught. "Did I?"
"All I'm asking is if you really meant it or not. And if you didn't, nothing's going to change."
Chas paused again. "And…if I meant it?"
Their eyes met, John's gaze apprehensive, Chas's open and honest for the first time in a long time. When John didn't speak, Chas smiled.
"I wouldn't have stuck around and dealt with all this unless there was something crazy keeping me here."
John studied Chas for a few moments, as if searching for a sign that Chas was just lying to him. When all he saw was that child-like expression of openness, he sighed and looked down at the floor.
"I'm sorry, Chas," he mumbled, and Chas could've cried out with relief. Finally, that one thing he'd been waiting so long to hear, and he didn't have to beg for it, didn't even have to ask.
"It's okay," Chas said, his smile widening. "Worst part is over, right?"
"You're too optimistic for your own good," John said, chuckling.
Another silence fell, but not an uncomfortable one. John looked up at Chas, and moments later Chas leaned forward, catching John's lips in a clumsy kiss. John immediately returned it, reaching up to tangle his hand in Chas's soft curls, savoring a taste that was unique to Chas- and, of course, Chinese food.
It seemed like such a long time before they finally broke apart, and John opened his eyes to find that Chas's were still closed. The boy seemed lost in it all.
"You'd better get some sleep," John said, his voice a bit breathless. "You have to be at work in the morning."
Chas's eyes fluttered open and he frowned. "John…I lost my job earlier this week. I told you that."
"I know," John said, a smirk on his face. "And after you stormed out, I called your boss and cussed him out until he agreed to give you your job back."
Chas's expression brightened, and he laughed, leaning in and kissing John again.
"Thank you," he said quietly, and John shrugged.
"Somebody's got to drive me to those exorcisms. I rather it be you than anyone else."
I could've dragged out this story, but I really felt like this was the right point to end it. A short and sweet story. Thanks to all my reviewers, you guys (and gals) rock!