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Homecoming

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  Chas should be annoyed when John called.

  He had every right to be, after all. He only ever called when he needed a bed to sleep in, a roof over his head, a bit of spare cash. And if he needed board it was often because something had gone terribly, terribly wrong in whatever corner of the earth he'd been staying in before. John spared him the details when he recounted his experiences, but the word “apocalypse,” “death,” and “demon,” were often mentioned with alarming frequency.

  Still, yet, Chas loved hearing from John. If only for the reassurance that he was still alive.

  It took a while to convince Renée to relocate her Zumba studio this time. Sacrificing her workout space was more about the principal of the matter than the actual room. She never liked John, and she had good reason to. He was a sarcastic, contrarian asshole who took advantage his and Chas's friendship, and nothing good ever happened when he came by for a visit. Chas would readily admit that John was a bit of a prick, but he still couldn't turn him down. John was his longest friend. His only real friend, as he would never qualify the blokes he shot the shit with at the bar every other weekend his mates. And while Chas didn't like to recount his childhood, John had helped him in ways he couldn't ever pay off. In his mind, food, spare change, and a nice bed was the least he could do for John.

  He picked John up from the airport with all the items he'd asked for; chicken vindaloo, onion bhaji, garlic naan, red chalk, and a sabre.

  “Did you get me all the things I asked for?” John asked after pleasantries had been exchanged and they were settled in Chas's cab.

  He tossed the satchel into John's lap. “You wanna tell me what it's for?” he asked, even though he knew it'd be fruitless.

  “Just trust me, Chas,” he said, pulling the blade from the satchel and running his thumb over the edge. “I've got a plan.”

  He dropped John off at Hyde Park, smack dab in the middle of London. John started to walk away, but stopped and turned around to face Chas.

  “Hey, uh, I'll see you soon, mate,” he said. For a moment he saw actual emotion in John's face, not the smarmy façade he put up.

  “Yeah,” Chas said, almost taken aback. It was unlike John to be so… caring.

  There was a moment before John spoke again.“Why don't you get Renée and get out of London for a spell, eh?” John asked. “I'll call you when it's safe.”

  “What're you planning, John?” Chas asked, startled.

  “Nothing big. Just in case, though,” he said. His face was that of someone trying very hard to not let on that they were about to do something terrible.

  “You’re never planning 'nothing big,’ John,” Chas said insistently. He pushed his hand through his hair, resigned, and sighed. “Fine. I don't even want to know. God knows there's no talking you out of it. Thanks for at least warning me this time, I s’pose.”

  Chas turned to climb back in his cab but John stopped him with a hand to his forearm.

  In the drug filled haze of their youths, things had gotten odd between them. Casual sex, random make out sessions when everyone else was asleep, etc. John was keen on the indulgences of the flesh, and as a pubescent teenager Chas would take what he could get, even in the form of his best friend. It was never anything that extended beyond the moment that one of them left the bed, and the both seemed to come to a silent agreement to never mention it when they grew up and matured. He would be a damned liar if he said he never thought about his friend in that way again. John was a handsome bloke, and he was human.

  Still, when John leaned forward and kissed him, he was caught off guard. It was gentle, a brush of lips and nothing more. Still, Chas felt like the universe had shifted an inch to the right, like the ground had shuddered beneath them. He waited for something like the sun falling from the sky but it never came. Worse, though, when he pulled back he saw the wisps of emotions on John's face just before he hid them once again. Sadness, longing. He would kill to know what happened in New York.

  “Sorry,” he said, before turning away and disappearing into the crowd of tourists.

  Chas lingered. He had an impulse to chase after him, to ask him what the hell that was all about, but he stayed firmly rooted to the pavement, leant up against his cab, arms dangling awkwardly at his sides where they'd dropped after John turned away.

  He was at a loss. There were a million thoughts racing through his mind, but the combined noise of them all became white noise.

  Despite himself, he decided that the best thing he could do was forget that ever happened. John was jet lagged. Something big had obviously happened to force him out of New York and he wasn't in a clear state of mind. Besides, John had never been accused of being a rational man. He was impulsive. It wouldn't be the first time he'd be forced to forget something he and John had done, and it likely wouldn't be his last.

  He climbed into his cab and sat at the steering wheel for a moment, eyes squeezed shut as he forced his mind to clear. He had to get Renée and get the hell out of London. He didn't have time to dwell over a kiss. A dumb, insignificant kiss. A kiss from his best friend, turned lover, turned back to best friend that he still sometimes fantasized about while his lovely wife lay mere inches away. No, he had to go get said wife and, likely, save her from whatever apocalypse-death-demon John was calling upon in the busiest park in the UK.