Enchantment, or something more?
Marcus had made a reservation at a cute little Italian restaurant, hidden away on a residential street. They were seated in a corner, squeezed in tightly so that their knees bumped against each other under the table. The lighting was dim, with flickering candles and a single red rose on every table. Under other circumstances, Andy would have considered this romantic. Under current circumstances, it felt slightly claustrophobic.
Marcus leaned in close over the table, the candlelight dancing across the planes of his handsome face.
"Look," Marcus sighed, putting a reassuring hand over Andy's. "I know we come from really different backgrounds. But let's just put all that aside for a few hours and enjoy dinner, okay?"
Andy looked down at where their hands touched. He desperately wanted to agree with Marcus, wanted to forget about everything that wouldn't work between them and just enjoy sharing a meal with this beautiful man. He could at least owe Marcus that much, just a simple meal without his problems bearing down on them.
Andy tired to smile at Marcus, but feared that he wasn't fooling either of them. When the waitress approached their table, Andy instinctively pulled his hand out from under Marcus' and folded it in his lap, rubbing the skin that Marcus had just been caressing.
The waitress gave them a sweet smile and rattled through the specials before leaving them to peruse the menu. "You boys take your time," she said before walking away, a twinkle in her eye.
Andy swallowed thickly and tried his best to ignore that little voice, rearing its ugly head. She thinks you're on a date; two men on a date, so sinful, you should be ashamed.
"I hope this place is good. It got good reviews on Yelp, but I've never been before, so I'm not liable if it's bad." Marcus joked, obviously trying to lighten the mood.
Andy nodded silently and murmured something reassuring about the quality of the food. Andy did his best to concentrate on the meal, to focus on the conversation with Marcus. But he felt himself get distracted several times by the waitress who stopped by to check in on them, by the other diners that filled the restaurant. They're all staring at you, you know. They're judging you. They know what a dirty, sinful person you are.
By the time the meal was over and the waitress brought over the check, Andy was exhausted and desperate to get out of the suffocating restaurant. Marcus reached for the check just as Andy was pulling out his wallet.
"Don't worry about it," Marcus said. "I've got this."
"Marcus, no. Let's me pay."
"I invited you out, I should pay," Marcus argued.
"No, that's not necessary," said Andy. "At least let me pay my half."
Andy wasn't sure if Marcus would agree, if the scowl on his face was any indication. But when Marcus finally relented, Andy wondered why he felt so guilty. Suddenly he wanted to take back his offer to pay half, but the waitress was already taking their cards away.
Andy took a deep breath when they were finally out of the confined space and back on the sidewalk.
"You're not okay, are you?" Marcus asked. He didn't sound angry, he sounded sad. Andy almost wished Marcus was angry, it would have been easier to deal with than a sad Marcus. Andy hated the way Marcus' shoulders were slumped in defeat, as if unable to fight any longer.
"Marcus, I... I'm sorry."
Marcus was waiting for an explanation, but Andy didn't have one for him. Being with Marcus made Andy feel good, yes, that was true. But the minute he stepped away from Marcus, the minute he stepped back into the real world, things just got so much more complicated. Andy didn't know how to reconcile the truths that he had been taught to believe his entire life with this new... whatever it was, he had with Marcus. He didn't understand it, how could he expect Marcus to?
Andy felt a vice grip around his chest, and suddenly he felt like he was back in the suffoca