Efren couldn’t even begin how much he wanted it to be the other way around. But now that it also involved Pearl, he couldn’t afford daydreams like it or, he was sure, his mom would prove him just how powerful she could be.
A tiny clatter made them look back at Marc, who was awkwardly removing his hand from a pen on the table. Why would he need a pen?
“Could you please refrain from threats right now?” he asked.
“Seems to be most entertaining part so far.” Steven grunted, hurt, but continued cleaning up the glass instead, giving them a bit privacy.
Marc leaned against the chair, looking him up and down, but said nothing. That was good, because Efren was just as lost. That’s why he hadn’t wanted him here! There were times they could do nothing but wait. He couldn’t force the ritual to begin, it came when the clock ticked to zero. Until then it would be sitting around, doing nothing. Like now.
He hated those times. As if brain had nothing better to do, it would bring back memories he didn’t want to deal with and for a second he wondered if he could suggest watching that boring news channel that had all the stock market info running on the bottom. Memories were a bitch.
Now he knew better. Those memories weren’t there not because he would suffer some brain damage, but because it wouldn’t have been his brain in the first place. Or, to be honest, it would have been his brain. Just not his soul accessing the corps’s computing system.
“Why didn’t you call me that you were getting worse?”
It was fair question, but not one Efren thought he had answers for.
“Last time I went through it, I didn’t tell you either.”
“Last time I had to force it out of you after you raised coffee out of the mugs and levitated it around lampshades!”
Efren snorted. Later he had to pay for rewiring the whole flat after he unintentionally wrecked the whole system. For someone, who he’d only been friends for six months, he had to admit, he was floored when Marc hadn’t cut him off and instead invited him for a beer to celebrate after he got back from his vacation to the most remote area cottage he could find.
“He can do that?” Steven was appalled and Efren was immediately reminded that it has been, after all, a private matter and Steven had no idea.
“Oh yeah. It’s like leaving a puppy alone for the first time.”
“Your girl knows about it?”
“She…” Marc cleared his throat, suddenly aware how easily Steven had lead him into what seemed as a normal conversation without noticing. He glared him back, frowning and silently swearing him off before turning back to Efren.
“Tomorrow is workday.” Efren blurted out the first thing he thought about.
“I have a vacation.”
“What? It’s the busiest time of the year! You can’t take out a vacation out of the blue! Louis was very particular about holiday trips…” He ran out of energy, when he saw his stepbrother and boyfriend exchange knowing glances and smirk exactly the same way.
“This is what makes him worry?” Steven’s amusement was very out of place.
“I always have this week off, remember? Even if I hadn’t, I would have asked it off.”
“You think I can concentrate while waiting call from a morgue?”
“That’s a little, uh… I do try to stay alive, you know?”
“How would I? You don’t tell me anything to go by! You leave us guessing on everything and honestly, that is not how I imagined our relationship to be! Besides I don’t like your attitude in this whole thing.”
“I’m not done yet!” He cut him off. There was a long pause, but Efren didn’t dare to intervene the second time. Marc tried to calm himself. “It’s different this time. You always cracked jokes about it, said you’re coming back, but this time it’s as if you are in panic and running blind. Prove me wrong, but I think this time you actually want to die.”
I am, Efren said in his mind. The bitterness was making his chest hurt, but he kept his mouth shut.
“You all would be better without me, so why not? One day if I can’t control it, you’d have to go through this once again and I don’t want you to suffer like you did with Debra!”
“If you give me that shit one more time, I swear to God I’ll beat it out of you!” Marc roared so loud it made Steven wrinkle his nose. His eyes watered and first tear ran down the side of his nose. “How can you be so selfish! Why in hell would I want to stay away when I know you’re hurting, you saint of misery? Fuck you, Efren! You’re nothing like Debra! For one, she would never be this cruel and ask me sit on the bench doing nothing while she suffered! Yes, it hurt like hell to lose her, but losing always hurts! Mother, wife, sister – it doesn’t matter! And for fuck’s sake – why…” he sucked in a breath before whispering, holding out his hand, waiting him to take it. When Efren didn’t take it, he grabbed his hand himself and squeezed it gently. His tears had stopped, but the pain in his eyes was still vivid. Efren gulped hard, the haze in his head clearing out for the first time this past week. “Why won’t you trust me to be there for you? You’ve always been there for us.”
“I’m sorry,” Efren said finally, “I really thought I was being considerate.”
Marc launched from his place and wrapped Efren into a strong hug.
“You were being an ass!” He whispered and kissed him quick on his blond hair. “You can’t give up just because you’re hurting, idiot! You’re connected to us now, to me.”