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Copyright ©2021 Willa Okati
“As much of it as you can fit in a cup. No cream but double the sugar. Please.”
The train attendant shook his head, but with a smile and a finger briefly pressed to his lips as he passed over not one but two Styrofoam cups filled to the brim. He was an Omega too, in his mid-thirties by the look of him, and he wore a black jet widower’s ring instead of a wedding band. Things weren’t much easier for the widowed than the unmated or separated. He understood.
Zach took a grateful gulp, not caring that the coffee was hot enough to scald his throat, and asked, “How far behind schedule are we?” Stretching his legs at the next station would do him good; they ached when he stayed still for too long.
“About half an hour, at this point.”
Wishing wouldn’t make the wheels turn faster, but with nothing to look at outside in the dark, Zach adjusted his position so he could get a better view of the passengers in his car. Like most Omegas, he wasn’t very tall. Some new folks had gotten on and others disembarked while he’d dozed, and he liked wondering what their stories were. Two young Alphas who acted like frat bros; interesting, they weren’t the usual size for Alphas, but small and compact and they weren’t at each other’s throats but laughed and joked like best friends. A couple that had to be recently married from the way they could barely resist climbing all over each other; an Omega with a contented smile, probably on his way back home, and —
Zach’s heart jumped into his throat and wedged stuck there even around the burn of his beverage. Three rows ahead, dark wheat-blond hair and a profile almost as familiar as his own turned to smile at the attendant as he refused their offer of coffee. It couldn’t be, it couldn’t be, he hadn’t seen that profile since he was eighteen, but — He’d changed — well, he’d grown up, the way everyone did, the bones of his face maturing from soft boyish cuteness to strong, masculine definition. A short beard, trimmed and shaped, that suited his strong, stubborn jaw. The kind of casual suit that would have cost the equivalent of a month’s rent in Manhattan. Elegant hands with sturdy knuckles and deft fingers, and a smile that lit up the train.
He did and didn’t look a thing like the boy Zach remembered but it was, it was, it was him.
Zach would have known him anywhere, even if he’d shaved his head and started scowling instead of smiling. If he closed his eyes, he could feel those hands on the bare skin of memory. After all, you never forgot your first.
“I love you. And I know you love me too.”
He should stop staring. Alex would sense it any second now, and he might look around, and —
His gaze drifted back up, drawn like a moth to a flame.
Alex. Oh, Alex.
Zach’s body twitched with the first pangs of arousal, wanting what he’d had once upon a time. He remembered it all, and he remembered it perfectly. He dreamed about it, when he slept. The taste of Alex’s skin, the softness and hardness of his mouth and how his eagerness had nearly rubbed the insides of Zach’s thighs raw. The fullness, almost too much and too tight, when he slid inside Zach.
“I love you. And I know you love me too.”
Anger slowly took alarm and unhappiness’s place – anger, and frustration with himself. Zach should have sensed this train was to be avoided. Dodged. Something! And Alex, sitting there as if he didn’t have a care in the world – it was everything Zach had wanted for him, the entire reason he’d left Alex in the first place, but seeing it in the flesh opened all those old wounds back up and made them bleed afresh. The pain from that moment of saying no to what Alex had offered with all his big, warm heart cut sharper than any knife – but he’d had to. You didn’t do that to your first boyfriend, did you? Take him up on a marriage proprosal and tie him down to a shitty life based on a few promises made in the afterglow?
He’d done the right thing by saying no, leaving, and giving Alex his freedom. Zach knew that. Was sure of it. Even if none of that had ever made him feel any better about it.
They must have been traveling farther and faster than Zach had realized, or he was more out of it than he’d known. Between one blink and the next the train’s PA system crackled to far-too-loud life again, announcing they’d reach their next station at Second Chance in ten minutes. Second Chance? What kind of name was that for a town?
Alex looked up at the speaker, nodded in an absent sort of way, and stood to open the overhead compartment. He took out a bulging messenger bag and slung it over his shoulder and stuffed a pair of thick gloves and a warm knit hat in the pockets of his coat. This would be his stop.
Zach caught his lip between his teeth, torn between – it was pure foolishness, the idea of going to him — and sanity, staying right where he was.
Let it go.
Zach would have, really he would. But as Alex walked past him – always so eager to do things, that one; he would start heading for the exits before the train had even come to a halt — he only made it two steps past Zach’s seat before he stopped. As Zach’s heart sank down past the pit of his stomach he saw Alex pause, then turn to look back.
He stopped, just like Zach had, blank with surprise. “Do I know you?”
Zach held his breath. Could he lie? Yes, but this new, matured Alex would have the life experience not to believe him, and he hadn’t changed nearly as much as Alex had. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out.
“I do know you. I know your face,” Alex said. His voice had matured with the rest of him as he aged, going from sweet to firm with a raspy vocal fry on the edges. “Zach?”