Wolfgang grips his wine glass tight as he chews a mouthful of food without really tasting it. He feels numb and strange. The sunshine feels too bright, as if he’s been underground for days.
He blinks, staring at the plate of cheese on the table beside him. He has been underground. He’d been locked in a torture chamber for fuck knows how long, cuffed and sedated. And now he is here.
Now he is in this villa somewhere in France, in the bright sunshine. Now he is eating cheese and drinking wine. Now he is with his cluster, who rescued him. Now he is looking at the husband of the love of his life.
Seeing Rajan for the first time had been a bit of a blur. He’d barely been able to see his face, in that club with the strobe lighting and the darkness. And it wasn’t really the first time he’d seen him of course, because he’d seen him through Kala’s eyes. His feelings were all mixed up with hers and the moment was too short, too dangerous to even think about that
But now they are here, in a villa eating excellent food. Now he’s looking at a man who has just saved his life.
There are too many feelings and he doesn’t know what to do with them. There are some things that need to be pushed down. Whispers. The thoughts and the memories that he’d deliberately provoked; they all need to be pushed down, forced right to the back of his mind like he always had. He is determined not to give into them, not to feel that pain again. He won’t do it. That pain made him weak and he isn’t going to have that. Not ever. No, those things need to be pushed away and forgotten about. He’d been doing that since he was a kid, no need to stop now.
He glances at Rajan. He is pacing up and down, waiting for Kala. Wolfgang can tell he is anxious to see her, to make sure she is all right. Wolfgang can understand that; Rajan can’t feel her the way he can. Wolfgang already knows she is okay and she is on her way to them.
He glances back at everyone else. They are busy with their food and chat. He knows they were worried about him but now they are just relieved he’s back with them again, that he’s safe. Now they’re just enjoying this moment.
But he can’t. Rajan saved his life.
But he must know. Kala isn’t good at hiding her feelings. He has already felt the worry in her, that Rajan must know how she feels, that she couldn’t hide it from him. Wolfgang knew before that she wouldn’t be able to. As soon as she told Rajan about him, Rajan would know.
Really, Rajan should have punched him. He should have left him to die in there. That’s what people did when they didn’t care about you. But he hadn’t. He’d saved him.
It makes no sense to Wolfgang and he knows he has to say something. On impulse, before he can think about it or back out, he stands up, grabbing the bottle of wine and crossing to Rajan.
He keeps his movements casual, not giving away the fear thumping in his chest. Maybe this is the moment that Rajan will punch him. Not that Wolfgang is afraid of a punch. He can take anything. But it would hurt Kala. That he cannot take.
Rajan stops, that gentle brown gaze resting on his face. Wolfgang meets his eyes for a moment, then focuses on the wine.
‘They’ll be here soon,’ he says, pouring the wine into Rajan’s glass. He can still feel Rajan’s eyes on him and the fear thumping in his chest gives way to something else. His heart is still beating fast but there is no fear anymore.
He needs to say it. As he looks up, Rajan drops his gaze, looking faintly embarrassed, as though caught doing something he shouldn’t.
Rajan looks up, meeting his eyes in surprise. They look at each other for a moment, not breaking the eye contact.
‘Most men wouldn’t have done what you did for me.’
Rajan shrugs, looking away as he tries to look casual. But he can’t seem to keep his gaze off Wolfgang for long. ‘I did what I could.’
Wolfgang wants him to understand how important this is, how much this means to him. He needs him to understand.
He looks into Rajan’s eyes. ‘I’ll never forget it.’
Rajan looks back at him for a moment and doesn’t seem to know what to say. Then he smiles and holds up his glass to exchange clinks with him. Wolfgang can’t help smiling and the slightly awkward, self-effacing manner of this man. He doesn’t even think he did anything special. It’s special to Wolfgang. So few people are that selfless.
As Wolfgang takes another sip, as an easy reason to look away, Rajan pats his shoulder and Wolfgang feels something else. It’s … a spark, a sharp feeling of want. Is that Kala? No, he is sure it isn’t.
He can feel Kala. She’s a bundle of nerves and anxiety, wound so tight as she worries about rules. He wants to tell her that it’s all right. He wants to tell her to fuck all the rules and just do what she wants. But she’ll never be that person and that’s all right. He loves her.
‘Here they come,’ he says, as Rajan hears the car and turns, waiting for his wife.
Yes, Kala is Rajan’s wife but Wolfgang already knows she loves them both. It’s not the same love but it’s equal. He doesn’t mind. As long as he gets to be with her, nothing else matters.
Maybe there’s more to this than one woman loving two men. There is more to this than he thought, just like there is more to humanity than he thought.