A/N: Written as part of the Super Special Awesome Spring Slash Lovers Prompt for LCHime – hope you like it :)
Vince sat on the terrace of the mansion style luxury hotel and stared out into the sprawling grounds that surrounded it. The lawns were mown into an English-looking uniform of contrasting green stripes and the flowerbeds tended immaculately into floral displays to shame any landscape gardener. He was anxiously perched on the edge of a white wrought-iron chair that had an exact copy facing it, distanced only by a matching table. Laid out on the table was nothing more than a white linen tablecloth and in the centre a small floral arrangement in the exact pink and red colours Vince had asked the hotel to arrange.
It had been the hardest thing he done in a number of years, making the call that led to him being sat alone, waiting for the most precious person he'd ever met to come and join him. Their long conversation had brought all the old feelings and memories flooding back but with them came a sense of regret. For Vince that regret was borne out of the fact that their paths had been almost inextricably interwoven over the years but apart from in the earliest days of their acquaintance neither man had the courage to act upon the urges and feelings that they'd since harboured silently. In his rare quiet moments Vince would look back critically at the bond they'd had and curse that the love they'd once shared had been denied and shelved, both knowing that they couldn't act on their impulses and pursue the careers they both desired.
In his mind Vince played back their final 'encounter' as he liked to call it. They'd laid on a riverbank together, so lost to the world, in fact anonymous to the world as it passed them by. If there really was such a thing as a perfect day he was sure that it had been back then. They'd gone fishing together and after an afternoon of unsuccessful waiting had taken the boat downriver until they'd found a perfect spot to sit and eat, Eric using his strength to pull them in to the bank and tying the boat to a stump. Vince's most vivid memory was of Eric stood slightly above him, his arm outstretched to help Vince get out of the boat; the warm afternoon sun silhouetting the man that became his every reason to exist, to think, to love.
They'd spent two hours eating their packed provisions and sharing a pack of beers that had warmed slightly during their fruitless expedition but neither cared about such a minor niggle. Their hands were interwoven as they lay on the dry grass, listening to nothing but each other's breathing and the sounds of nature that surrounded them. Gone was the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives, gone was the stress and the strain of working hard and constantly trying to get ahead. Back then they weren't such direct and bitter rivals. There was no undercurrent of resentment driving itself into the ground between them, forcing them apart as it would ultimately turn out to do. Vince had turned Eric down for a job but it didn't mean they couldn't be friends. Having used the phone number he'd been slipped on the interview day Vince had never looked back afterwards. How he wished in retrospect he'd had the ability to look forwards.
An afternoon of stolen kisses and tender embraces gave way into a dusk of carefully made love, Vince taking time to cherish and worship every inch of his younger lover, allowing his hands to roam across the tanned flesh wantonly before he saw the permission granted in Eric's eyes to take it further. He often recalled the look on Eric's face as he slowly rocked them towards the special moment that had never left his mind and the moment of hearing the words that had forever burnt onto his heart. "I love you, V, love you so much...."
Skip forward to the warm summers day years later and Vince felt as if the intervening years had never had happened. He wiped away a stray tear from his watery eyes, clearing his mind of the haunting replay of Eric's voice and finding himself with familiar butterflies in the pit of his stomach, his normally steady hands quivering slightly and damp with a thin coating of perspiration.
He always tuned in to watch TNA on the pretence of checking out the competition despite knowing they had a whole department tending to that issue. The truth was that it was the only way he could see Eric. Since their acrimonious professional parting a few years ago the contact had been sparse and the loss of his presence from Vince's life had been difficult for him to handle. Linda was still his wife but the more engrossed she became with her political campaign the more time Vince spent alone and the more he wished himself back to happier times. He loved Linda but had never been truly in love with her. She'd been a fine mother to their children, a ferocious businesswoman who had made some of the decisions that had put them where they were today but she had one major failing. She wasn't Eric.
He fiddled with his cufflinks and straightened the pale silk tie he had chosen carefully that morning from the selection he'd packed to bring with him. His 'business' trip had been meticulously planned down to the last details of which shoes he wanted to wear. He knew that now he was ageing and grey that he wasn't going to wow Eric when he arrived but he wanted to make the effort to look as good as he could. If he was going to lay his heart on the line then he needed all the confidence he could muster. For such a big chested and opinionated man he knew himself well, knew that his bravado was exactly that and inside him was still the self conscious boy that found it all to easy to meet a girl at church and spend his life with her rather than act on his true feelings.
It was only when he heard a throat being cleared that the haze in his brain began to lift. Looking at his watch before looking up he expected to see the waiter coming to ask him if he was ready for the champagne yet or to confirm that his guest had arrived. Instead he looked up and stood above him, just like all those years before, was Eric.
Immediate Vince stood, feeling awkward and firstly offering his hand, then opening his arm out slightly for a hug before thinking better of it and just letting his arms dangle by his sides, a blush creeping up his cheeks. The moment for him had passed and his hopes of an emotional reunion seemed dashed.
Eric looked fondly at the man who still had the power to make his heart skip a beat. Taking a small step forward he took the initiative, curling his arm around Vince's neck and pulling him close into a hug that to anyone else would just look like old relatives or long-time friends meeting for a catchup. He took in the suddenly familiar smell, so clean and cotton fresh like the breeze with a hint of citrus in the background. Before he knew it his mind was full of the memories of that day out fishing as he'd buried his head into the warm crook of that neck, feeling fulfilment and joy like never before. He managed a whisper, afraid that if he tried to speak too loud or say too much his voice would simply break.
"Its been too long V, way too long...."
Nodding slowly Vince couldn't bear the thought of ending the hug, choosing not to speak and just feel; the warmth of their slightest contact setting light to every nerve ending under his skin. He slid his hand inside Eric's light linen dress jacket and tentatively placed his hand on the still firm waist where nobody could see. He thumbed the cotton button down shirt rhythmically, never wanting to be apart from Eric again if he could still make him feel this way after so many missed years.
"You're right Eric, we...well I waited far too long before I called you. And I'm sorry about that, I truly am."
Vince's own words were nothing more than a breathy rumble, the knot in his belly stopping his usual endless flow of words dead. None of them seemed right, not one of them seemed appropriate but at least he'd managed to acknowledge Eric, that was a start.
Eric slowly disentangled himself, aware they were somewhere public, albeit quiet. He took a moment to just look at Vince, noting that apart from the inevitable effects that time had had on the glowing face before him nothing had changed. The broad shoulders still stood strong, the sharp designer suit hung from his frame as fluidly as it'd ever done. The enchanting smile that turned into a smirk with the lips curled upwardly at one side still made him smile right back, it always had, no matter how dark his mood.
The waiter approached and both men took it as their cue to sit down. He made small talk with them as they looked at the menu but both of them already knew what they were going to order. As he poured them two glasses of Champagne their eyes remained locked, barely noticing anything else in the world apart from each other. This had been something they'd talked about in jest many years ago, both romantics at heart that often bought each other trinkets and meaningful gifts at the height of their secretive liaisons. The thought of two men sharing afternoon tea together in public had once seemed so bold but as times moved on it had become less and less of an oddity and during their conversation the idea had come up and they decided that's where their reunion seemed destined to be.
They allowed themselves to share a moment of connection when their glasses, popping with fizzy liquid, chinged together and the bubbles tickled their noses and then their tongues. After a moment's appreciation of the wine both men went to speak. Both stopped in deference to the other before Vince gestured forward with his hand, inviting Eric to speak first. Eric nodded, placed his glass back on the table and relaxed his hands into his lap.
"Vin-V...I've got to be honest, I was shocked when you called. I thought us...this...was all behind us. I never thought for a second that you still thought about me, let alone cared about me any more."
Vince knew that he could've tried harder over the years to make something happen but deep down inside him he also knew that neither of them would've given up their careers for something like love. He'd always assumed that that was one of the reasons they got on as well as they did. It was always work first, life second. Now that Eric was starting to make his latest project into a success and Vince was nearing retirement he was convinced that there was one last chance for them. He just had to hope that Eric still felt the same.
"Eric, I wanted to call you sooner. Hell, I've wanted to call you every day since the first day I met you all those years ago. You know how our lives have been and how different they'd have turned out if we'd got it together back then. You saw what happened to Pat, how he got pushed aside, sent backstage. Once everyone knew what chance did he have?
I just, well, I'm getting too old to be bothered hiding this any more. I'm too tired to fight myself over what I feel about you. Truth is, I had to tell you as much to get it off my chest as it was a move to, well, get you back. Its been a long time Eric, a long and lonely time and, well, I don't want that. I want you. I always did. I'm just sorry it took me so long to get right around to saying it."
His voice trailed off into silence as he watched the expression on Eric's face change from something close to sadness into a smile; a soft and knowing smile. It had never been Vince's style to lay his heart on the line when it came to his emotions. Every single card he had was kept close to his chest at all costs.
"V, we couldn't have done this years ago. I know that. It's just hard to be able to sit here and pretend that we're best friends, let alone anything else. I tried so hard to keep the channels of communication open, I never once shut you out but when you stopped taking my calls what was I supposed to think? V, I've loved you for longer than I care to remember.
I'm ashamed to say this but if anyone ever asked me what the best day of my life was it wouldn't be the birth of either of my kids. It'd be that sweet August day spent fishing and tumbling around with you. No other day has ever come close to giving me the joy, no, the love that I felt from you. I want to leap over this table and kiss you like I've never been kissed but if I do, what then? If I give up everything I worked so hard for and you change your mind...."
Eric found himself interrupted by the waiter who had returned with a trolley carrying the trappings and morsels that would comprise the ritual style meal. First he lifted onto the table a cake stand laden with sandwiches, English scones and a selection of dainty patisserie cakes. Next came the sugar and milk in bone china containers, plates, cutlery and napkins, all laid in a formal etiquette-observing fashion. Finally came the cups, saucers and teapot, the tea being served for both men by the waiter who then placed a cosy over the pot before bowing away from the table.
It didn't seem appropriate to finish what he started saying so Eric began to eat and drink, the talk turning to a general catch up, all talk of love and romance shelved as they animatedly chattered away about the goings on between their two companies. In the quiet moments Eric would let his eyes drift to Vince's face, absorbing the look of happiness and relaxation that spread across it. When he'd had the dubious honour of working with Vince all he could recall were the worry lines that carved themselves into the broad forehead. Many times he'd wanted to offer a massage or even a hug, anything to stop the worry that he believed would eventually cause a trip to an early grave.
Vince was aware of the caramel coloured eyes that bore into him as he enjoyed being away from the hassle of his everyday life. He'd made sure that his cellphone was turned off and that nobody knew where he was so nothing could interrupt them. As he poured them some more tea he looked up and caught Eric looking, immediately making the younger man go back to the scone he was finishing off.
"You, er, can look at me Eric, if you want to that is. I'd be hoping that you'd be looking at me an awful lot more in the future if you think we can make a go of things...hell,we can even go fishing again if you'd like cos I know I sure would...."
Leaving his words hanging Vince watched as Eric nearly choked on the mouthful of scone, the shock of the not-so-subtle words making him blush and warm like he hadn't in a very long time. He wished that he'd had a witty comeback or smart remark in mind but there was none. Vince was still the man he'd fallen in love with; witty, forthright and determined to get what he wanted at all costs. Except him. Eric knew that he was the only thing Vince had ever denied himself of and not pursued with his do-or-die attitude. That was what made the difference to him, he knew that the reason that he'd been left alone was more respect than neglect and that he would always be able to forgive. He opened his mouth to reply but was silenced by the waving over of the waiter by Vince.
"Now before you say anything, whether what I've got coming from you is good or bad, I've got one little surprise for you. Now, that afternoon, what did we have for dessert. Apart from each other that is?"
Eric smiled and recalled the trouble Vince had gone to in visiting the cake shop near the boat hut and carefully selecting something sweet to round off their packed picnic. He'd kept the box guarded until it was the last thing to consume and then produced slices of the most ridiculously fancy pink cake, hardly befitting of two buddies out on a fishing trip. It had however led to their tryst turning from warm embraces into intimate ones and every time Eric saw the dessert for sale he couldn't help but to smile and buy a slice, the sweet frosting reminding him of that long past day.
The waiter came over and presented two plates which each bore a portion of a very familiar looking cake, a half a strawberry finishing off the décor, just as it had been on the slices they'd had before, the picking off of the unwanted fruit having lead to licked fingers which had led to licked lips and more besides. On top of Eric's slice though was a large fishing hook, baited with the strawberry itself.
With a smile Vince watched the joyous expression forming on Eric's face and reached his hand across the table. Within seconds there was warm flesh pressed down on it, neither caring who was might see the spontaneous display of affection. Their love had only stalled and never truly stopped. Both men made the same internal pledge; that they'd never allow themselves to be apart as long again.
Vince checked his watch and waved the waiter over again, asking him to bring the telephone out for him to use.
"'So you think you might wanna go for that boat ride Eric, I mean, not today but someday soon?"
"It'd be a pleasure, V. Only thing is, the guns aren't what they used to be, we might need to get one with an outboard, or maybe even something a little bigger with more room on board for...fishing tackle...."
Eric had always had a wicked sense of humour and timing, even if he was mainly attempting to hide the nerves he was feeling. The waiter returned with the telephone and Eric watched as Vince made a short call. Once it was over he was curious to know what couldn't wait until their tea was over.
"Sort of Eric. I'd like to say I was booking a boat. However, I was just putting in a quick call to my lawyer, he's...er...preparing some papers for me."
The inference in the word wasn't lost on Eric, neither was the return of the hand which now covered his.
"Now, shall we get this cake brought up as room service? I don't know about you V, but if I recall properly, it tastes best when you eat someone else's and using your fingers...."
With a soft and slightly sly grin both men rose from the table, Vince slipping a $50 to the nearby waiter and asking him to have the cakes and the champagne delivered to his suite. Making their way towards the elevators they linked hands and rubbed at each other's fingers softly, the tender contact the prelude to more memories about to be made. Granted their reunion would be vastly different to their first time, yet in some smaller ways, remarkably similar.
A/N: I'm gonna say yay for love :) I agonised over this knowing it means so much to LCHime – I just hope she likes it :) I did my best to meet the brief :)