It was silent on the journey to Steve's house. Connor had never been to New York before despite knowing for much of his life that he needed to get there somehow. Steve smiled inwardly at Connor's excitement at the sight of the simplest things like a yellow taxi and he wished Connor would open up and share it with him.
Connor's eyes were fixed out the window, watching as the lights exploded before him as the taxi emerged from the tunnel. It was first time he'd seen his home. Steve watched the back of his head for a while but then stared out his own window.
Connor was transfixed and obviously not in the mood for conversation but Steve still wondered why he didn't at least say something to him. Steve sighed letting his breath fog up the window. He watched it fade again revealing the familiar skyline.
Connor said nothing as the taxi pulled up outside Steve's apartment block.
"We're here" he announced lamely. He lifted Connor's suitcase and began hauling it up the stairs. Connor followed behind glancing left and right as he went.
Steve struggled one handed with the keys and then opened the door for Connor to step into the threshhold.
It was dark so Steve fumbled for a lightswitch and revealed his small but comfortable apartment.
"Do you want something? A drink?"
Connor looked around the room. It didn't look like a very Steve room, everything was sort of stuffed in. His stomach twinged as he saw two coats hanging up by the door. Looking around closer he noticed that there was no table just two stools at the kitchen counter. There was a pile of empty photo frames on the sofa and this drew Connor's attention to the lack of photos in the room. His mind drifted as he tried to imagine who Steve had found.
"Connor?" Steve probed.
"Are they here?"
"The someone else"
"No, look it's late, you've had a long flight, you should sleep"
"Where is she?"
"The someone else" Connor's dead pan tone made Steve feel uneasy.
"A lot has changed, but not that much"
"Ok, where is he then?"
"He's at the hospital"
"Oh my god I'm sorry"
"No no no, he's a nurse"
"Oh. He sounds great"
"Yeah, he uh...he really is"
Connor shouldered his rucksack again and took the handle of his suitcase. He turned towards the open door that led to the corridor.
"It's on the left" Steve said after Connor's retreating form. As he disappeared he went straight to the fridge and stuck his head inside. He was beginning to have second thoughts.
Connor dumped his stuff in Steve's spare room and immediately returned to the corridor to look in the room opposite.
Connor didn't know why he wanted to look at Steve's space or Steve's stuff or in particular Steve's bed. It was unmade, that Connor thought was very Steve like, but the sheets had spots and that was very un Steve. A pile of books was on the bedside table of one side, he presumed Steve's mystery partner. Steve's side was bare save for a digital alarm clock.
Connor found himself drawn to Steve's side and he watched as his hand reached for the draw. He wondered what Steve kept by his side while he slept and part of him felt like he had the right to know.
He opened the draw carefully and was surprised to find it deep and empty save for a single piece of paper. He reached for it but froze as he heard Steve approach. He shut the draw and turned in time as Steve entered.
"You found your room alright?"
"Yeah I just wanted a look around"
"Well I made you a cup of tea"
"I still don't drink caffeine"
"Oh, I just thought, you know, it's been so long and your mission didn't really...well...I don't know I wasn't thinking sorry"
"It's ok, but I wouldn't mind a glass of water"
Steve nodded swallowing nervously. His hand reached to stroke the back of his neck comfortingly and he went back to the kitchen. Connor eyed the draw but left it to follow Steve.
They sat on the stools side by side facing ahead. Steve gulped and Connor sipped.
"I don't work Monday nights"
"You work nights?"
"Yeah, but not Mondays"
They both took another sip of the water which they were drinking out of mugs.
"What do you do?"
"I'm a stage manager"
"Oh wow. I wouldn't have seen that in you"
"I just saw you as something different"
"I don't know, computers or something"
"Computers?" Steve cracked a smile for the first time that night. He allowed himself a small laugh. The sound was strange and rare to him.
"Seriously Connor, I missed you"
"Well I'm glad you had a good time while I was gone"
"You should tell me about Uganda"
"There's not much to tell"
"You were there two years, you must have some stories to tell"
"I'll be up early, you know, jet lag"
"Sure, I sleep late"
Connor finished his drink and made his way to the room Steve had made up for him. He was exhausted but, he didn't manage to fall asleep straight away.
He stared at the ceiling listening to the sounds of the city outside.
Did he have any right to be angry or jealous or whatever feeling it was?
Connor slept restlessly, the feel of a solid bed beneath him unusual. As he predicted he woke early, just before five. He lay in bed for a while but then decided to get up and do what he did every morning in Uganda. Get breakfast ready for his elders. It wasn't until he was actually in Steve's kitchen that he remembered he didn't have to do that anymore.
Connor realised then that after two years of leading he now had no one to lead. He'd had a purpose and now he had very little.
He sat on one of the kitchen stools, his elbows resting on the counter and his head in his hands. The sound of a key in a lock made him jump. So this must be him, the new most important man in Steve's life.
A man in scrubs and trainers carrying a couple of shopping bags entered the room. They made eye contact for the first time and Connor was hoping that there might be something wrong with him. Maybe if he'd been ugly or very short or just something but, in reality he couldn't fault his appearance. Maybe there'd be something wrong with him some other way Connor thought vainly.
"Good morning!" He said brightly, too bright for 5am, "It's Connor right?"
Connor stood up instinctively and nodded.
"I'm Ewan" he dumped the bags on the counter and shook Connor's hand, "I just got back from work, I got us something nice for breakfast, I figured you could use a welcome home"
Connor's heart sank as he realised Ewan was a really nice guy and so far he couldn't flaw his character.
"That's so nice of you" Connor said growing increasingly despairing at Ewan's smile and aura of pleasantness.
"Don't mention it. Steve's told you something about me I presume?"
"Not much" Connor admitted, "You're a nurse and you live together"
"Well there's plenty of time, I wake up around mid day so we can talk then"
"Steve's still asleep?"
"It's sometimes difficult when I'm working nights and he works evenings, we hardly ever have a moment together"
Finally something for Connor to latch onto that he saw as positive. He didn't know why he was so jealous. Was he expecting Steve to wait two whole years? And wait for what? It wasn't like there was much before.
"But it does mean when we are together it's extra special"
Connor dropped down again.
"Help yourself to breakfast" Ewan said pointing to the bags, "I'm off to bed"
"Goodnight" Connor said limply watching as Ewan disappeared into his and Steve's room.
After a few minutes of sitting in silence Connor forced himself to do something. He looked into one of the bags. Poptarts. Just what he needed, a snack that he'd had far too much of over the past two years and one that reminded him of those two years.
Instead he went to the fridge and poured himself some milk. It tasted strange because he hadn't had cows milk in a while. They only had the village goats to occasionally provide milk. Even the simplest things were so different.
He yawned wondering if there was another couple hours sleep left in him. Connor opened the door he thought was his bedroom but in Steve's identically symmetrical apartment he'd easily made a mistake. He wished he hadn't.
The sight of Steve curled up inside Ewan's arms made him sick and sad at the same time. That should have been him. It should have been his arms holding on to Steve, his chest that Steve's head was pressed to, Steve's hands unconsciously stroking his chest.
He closed the door quietly on the scene, unable to look but finding it permanently printed in his mind anyway and climbed back into his own bed.
He wished it was a single. The double space made him feel alone split, like he was only half himself. The empty space meant to be holding the missing half to make him whole.