“Oh my God; this is so damned good,” Damien moaned. “So. . .damned. . .good.”
“How long has it been since your last hamburger?”, Levi asked. He could stare all day at that absolutely blissful smile on Damien’s face. Usually it was only there during sex. It was just as sweet and adorable under the fluorescent lights of Astro Burgers on Melrose. That smile, so huge, warm, and almost childlike in its simplicity and glee, stole Levi’s attention away from the globe-topped soundstage of the former RKO Studios, across Gower Street, where Astaire and Rogers had filmed so many of those classic musicals Levi loved.
“Two months. Two freaking months of grass and leaves and sand,” Damien answered before taking another heavenly bite which he chewed so slowly as to enjoy every bite.
“You’re a horrible vegetarian,” Levi admonished him with a playful smirk.
“I sneak burgers like you sneak cigarettes,” Damien matched him. Seeing Levi’s surprise, Damien pretended to swat him. “Oh? You thought I didn’t know, huh? Nailed!”
“You evil man!” Levi cried with a laugh. “How long have you known?”
“Since I went to your apartment that first time. I spotted the ash tray on your balcony; you know, your balcony without a view. I hope you’re not smoking in our house.”
“Never!” Levi told him. “Just outside and just once or twice a week. I swear. The pack goes stale before I’m even halfway through.”
“We have to get you to quit,” Damien told him.
“I will. I have to! No more cigarettes until you dump my sorry ass.”
“I will never do that so I guess no more cigarettes. . .ever?”
“You sure about that?” Might as well just tear that bandage off now. “That last visit of mine was—”
“Sssh,” Damien said. “We’re fine. You had a bad mood, I had a bad reaction to it. Look—you told me upfront, right away, that you’re bipolar. I got into this relationship knowing that. Right? I knew there would be bad days, Lee. Hell, I thought there’d be a lot more bad days than there have been. And that the bad days would be far worse than they’ve been. So we had a bad few days? Look at all the good ones we’ve had. It’s all about perspective.”
Levi suddenly had little appetite. “I just wish we could forget the whole thing.”
“There’s nothing to forget,” Damien told him. “Nothing has changed. I am still in love with you. And if you can forgive me, I hope you’re still—”
“Damien—that was nothing. I deserved to-=-“
“I should never have yelled at you,” Damien said. “I’m sorry. I’m still sorry I did that. I just—the silent treatment gets me. You didn’t know that, though. I know that now. You had no way of knowing how much it would set me off.”
“You’re more than forgiven. Eat your burger, dream man,” Levi told him. “I deserved to be yelled at and you have zero to apologize for.”
“You didn’t deserve it,” Damien told him with a mouth full of burger.
“Enjoy. . .your. . .burger,” Levi demanded, wanting the last word. “You’ve earned the burger. Just eat and smile for me.”
The last trip Levi had made to Atlanta had been a trip he should have canceled, claiming a work situation or an illness or. . .just the truth. He was in a horribly angry mood that was seeking a reason. Anything and everything became its cause. And by the time he had arrived in Atlanta, that cause had become everything from the long plane rides he had to take twice a week because of Damien, to how fucking exhausted he was, to how angry he was at himself for getting drunk and pleading with Damien to marry him, to Damien’s rejection of that drunken proposal only to say that he might be proposing in the future, to how little Damien appreciated how hard it was for him to work in retail and schedule two consecutive days off almost every week, to how busy he became during the week, now having to accomplish all he would normally do on his days off on the same days he worked, and on and on and on. There was nothing Damien could do to calm him. Any suggestion as to where to eat their meals had been met with indifference by Levi, who appeared as if ready to burst with an angry tirade. When Damien had to leave him to film a morning shoot that stretched into the afternoon, Levi was furious. Why the hell did he come all this way just to be stuck in a hotel all day? And so when Damien had returned, Levi was silent and sulking. Damien’s questions had been answered with sighs or a strange, stone-like stare.
This silence had continued throughout the night. Damien ordered them room service; Levi did not join him. Levi instead walked Peachtree Street to Tenth Street and spent an hour brooding on a bench in front of the Margaret Mitchell House, angrily telling himself to go back and apologize, but part of him overwhelming that idea and insisting it would be best to make Damien angry because he deserved to be made angry. Just exactly what he had done, Levi had no idea, but damn there sure was a feeling that he needed to be punished. And so he stayed out another hour.
By the time he returned, he was still convinced Damien needed to be made angry. He had planned to come into the suite, ignore him, and get some of that rest he had been shorting himself thanks to all these five hour flights across the country almost every week. Only Damien was not there. He had left a note on their bed, “Gone to bar downstairs. (Edgar’s Proof & Provisions) If civil, come join me.”
Levi had ripped up the note and, climbing under the sheets, left it on Damien’s pillow.
Alcohol and Levi’s indifference led to a shouting match with just one speaker when Damien returned later that night. Levi had stirred awake at the sound of Damien slamming their bedroom door.
“Oh? You’re awake?”
Levi glared at him, rolled his eyes, and lay back down. He heard Damien move to pick up the remnants of the note, heard him chuckle darkly, sigh, and mutter, “I don’t know what the fuck your problem is right now, Levi, but you better stop giving me the silent treatment.”
Damien stormed across the room to throw the shredded note in the small waste can by the room’s desk. “What the hell is so wrong? Are you having a mood? Is that it? Tell me. If it’s a mood. . .fine. But you’re acting like I’ve done something.”
Levi sat up in bed and stared at him, perplexed. He truly wanted to cry out, “I don’t know. It isn’t you, it’s this thing inside me”, but there was another he, another half in his whole, who wanted to stare silently at him so hard it broke him. Again, though. . .without any reason.
“What?” Damien asked, seeing this strange glow in Levi’s face, as if he wanted so badly to say something but was being restrained somehow.
He gave up and left Levi alone in the room, stomping off with a thousand angry words under his breath as he brushed his teeth and prepared for bed.
The alcohol was still on his breath, mingling with toothpaste and mouthwash, when he slipped into bed. In pajamas, Levi noted. The first and only time Levi had ever seen Damien come to bed in anything more than underwear.
They both slept fitfully, Levi taking some odd, mean pleasure in lying there, hearing Damien trying to sleep and being loudly unable to. A penance for all those times Levi had to spend on airplanes and the rest of the week trying to catch up on sleep and still get everything he needed to get done taken care of, he felt. Of course, he failed to consider that Damien, also, was taking flights to see him. Had done so just a few weeks before and would do so next week, working with Alicia and the crew to arrange his schedule so that he could have some days off, flying his mother out to Atlanta so Track wouldn’t have to make the hectic flights but still have family around him when the nanny had her time off. Those things were forgotten in Levi’s silent stormy tirade. All he knew was that Damien needed to be punished and see that Levi could live without him.
“So be quiet,” his mind told him, “and push him away and then you won’t have to make these goddamned trips anymore and Damien will learn his lesson. And if he breaks up with you, then. . .good.”