Betad by Charity
Michael sighed, Jean was sitting at the window table, with gloomy expression on his face while staring at him. ”Do you want us to ask him to leave?” Olivia asked quietly. The other employees already knew about their recent breakup and were ready to support him if needed.
“No, he hasn’t done anything yet,” Michael replied. He couldn’t help but to feel a certain kind of sympathy for Jean, a certain kind of remorse for how things had ended between them. Jean had been horrible to him, yes, but there was also a lot of good in the man, and Michael could never completely forget what Jean had saved him from. At that moment, Jean looked so utterly miserable, lonely, and… Michael hoped Jean would be able to find balance and happiness without him. “I’m going to talk to him,” Michael said, walking towards the table. Olivia watched the situation behind the counter with concern. Sam had talked to them about the situation and asked to tell him if Jean or Patrick would come to the restaurant to disrupt Michael’s work.
“Hey Jean,” Michael said as he stepped next to the table. Jean looked at him, the man looked tired and there was darkness under his eyes that told he wasn’t sleeping well. ”Could I offer you some coffee?” Michael suggested, still holding on to the hope that they could keep peace between them. Jean nodded and Michael went to get the man some black coffee and a muffin, whispering to Olivia that he’d take his coffee break. The woman didn’t consider it a good idea that Michael would talk to Jean and decided to keep an eye on the situation.
“Here,” Michael placed a cup of coffee and a muffin in front of Jean before sitting on the opposite side.
”Remember when we met?” Jean asked and tried to smile, Michael tilted his head and finally nodded.
“I remember,” the younger man replied in a soft voice.
“I saw you in that cafe and I remember thinking I had never seen anything as beautiful,” Jean continued, grabbing his cup of coffee with both hands. Michael didn’t answer, just smiled a little sadly. “I offered you a cappuccino and a muffin…” Jean continued after lowering his cup on the table and grabbing the muffin studying it in his hands thoughtfully. ”You ran away… you went there in that alley… Remember?”
Michael swallowed and looked down at his hands. “I haven’t forgotten,” Michael replied quietly. The thought of Jack came to his mind, it was all so painful.
“I’ve missed you so badly,” Jean said in a hoarse voice, lowered his cup, and reached to grab Michael’s hand, but Michael pulled his hand back and brought it down to rest on his lap. ”Are you happy?” Jean asked. ”Are you happy now?”
Michael frowned as he looked at the man. “Jean…” He started. “I am grateful to you for many things, but…”
”Don’t you fucking get that I love you?” Jean raised his voice. ”Everything I did for you… I saved you and this is how you pay me?”
Michael looked at Jean sternly. “I am grateful for your help,” he began. “But the truth is Jean… I told you back then, I loved Jack, I thought he was coming with us and…”
“What would have happened to you two? You would have starved to the streets; they would have found you in an instant and killed… not… slaughtered better…” Jean hissed. “Fuck Michael! You don’t understand! You belong to Me!” The man’s voice was raised, and he struck his fist on the table with such force that it made those around him startle. Before Michael realized, their chef Santo had marched out of the kitchen and grabbed Jean by the shirt collar, pulling him up from his chair.
”Now listen, you’re going to leave Michael alone, and you’ll never step into this restaurant again!” The man shouted. Michael sat still and stunned, Muriel had also stepped closer, giving Jean a stare, arms crossed over her chest.
“You’re not welcomed to my restaurant again,” the woman confirmed. Jean narrowed his eyes, his hands clenched into fists, and for a moment he looked around the other customers and the two employees standing at the doorway of the kitchen, a man and a woman, other customers watching the situation silently, and finally at Michael, who looked most troubled.
“You break my heart Chéri…” Jean whispered hoarsely before leaving the restaurant in slow steps, holding on the last of his dignity.
“Well, chin up, Michael! You can’t be too kind to an asshole like that,” Santo said, tapping his shoulder. Muriel cleared her throat and apologized for the incident to other customers, promising to offer drinks from the house. “Let’s get back to work,” Santo added, and Michael nodded, getting up. He walked towards the bar counter behind which Olivia still stood. The woman gave him a comforting smile.
“Forget Jean…” Olivia whispered as she got close to him and Michael glanced at her, trying to smile. How could he forget? “You’re way too good,” Olivia added, but Michael doubted the truthfulness. He didn’t wish Jean anything bad, he just didn’t know how to help the man and would be unhappy himself if he returned to him.
** ^^ ** ^^ ** ^^ **
“Many must have seen Michael with that man,” Kitty began. They were sitting in the kitchen with Sam. Michael was still at work and Sam had come to his friend to spend time before going to meet Michael. He had told Kitty the whole story, what Michael had told him, wanting to find a solution that would remove the problems from his life. “I mean… if Michael went to the cops and would tell them what had happened, then wouldn’t it be terrible difficult for the man to prove otherwise? For example, people who have lived in the same building could tell that they thought Michael was his nephew. I think this can only explode in that pervert’s hands and maybe he’s just waiting in horror for the moment when Michael realizes he can turn to the authorities? ”
Sam was silent for a moment. ”I have been thinking the exact same thing.” Sam admitted. “Of course, it’s also possible that that man does know other influential people and that telling the truth to the authorities would put Michael at danger. I do not know how to proceed with this matter, but it must be resolved somehow. His parents have a right to know where their son is, and Michael should have the right to be able to return home without fear. I’ve been thinking about hiring a private investigator, just to find out more about that man.”
“Maybe a good idea,” Kitty admitted, she had no idea how to proceed with the situation either. ”Are you going to tell Michael?”
“I don’t know… He’s still so fearful about the whole thing.” Sam sighed and brushed his fingers through his hair.
”How long was he with that man?” Kitty asked.
“Nearly three years,” Sam replied, looking into his friend’s eyes.
“Three years is a long time; the lie easily becomes the truth and the reality blurs… If that man were as powerful as Michael believes, wouldn’t he have already found him? I don’t think Paris is the best place if you want to disappear completely…”
Sam nodded thoughtfully. “And Michael is hardly the only one that man has hurt or will hurt… It feels awful to think that such a man is still running free…” And Sam was scared that if they didn’t go to the authorities, the day would come for that man to come after Michael again.
When Sam came to get Michael from work later that evening, Olivia told him about Jean’s visit to the restaurant even though Michael had hoped the woman wouldn’t talk about it. Sam was worried, they walked to the subway silently. Michael kept glancing nervously at him, not daring to start a conversation while sensing the others troubled thoughts. All the way home they hardly spoke one word to each other. When the door to the apartment finally shut behind them, closing the outside world behind it, Sam sighed heavily.
“Michael…” Sam started, walked behind his boyfriend and put his hand on his shoulders. “This can’t go on like this,” he said, and as the dark-haired one glanced at him worriedly over his shoulder, Sam brought his hand to his cheek. “Jean, Patrick… Ricky…” Sam started and saw anxiety form on Michael’s face. ”I’ve been thinking about it, and I think it would be wise for us to go to the police.” The younger man snorted in fear and walked with hurried steps to the living room, sitting on the couch and pulling his knees against his chest.
”No.” Michael shook his head. ”He would find me.”
Sam followed Michael calmly and sat down next to him. “Think about it, how many saw you with him and heard him say that you are his nephew? Does he even have a nephew? ” Sam thought. “If so, what would that nephew say about someone else performing as him? You said his mother didn’t know, or that you never met his siblings, of course you couldn’t because they would be surprised to meet their so-called nephew. Michael, his story is just filled with holes! A 17-year-old boy disappeared from his home, his identity changed, you were allegedly studying at a school where there’s no record of your fake identity ever attending…” Sam started to get accelerated as he realized just how weak that man really was. “Have you ever wondered that the reason he hasn’t come after you yet, is simply that he’s terrified that you might go to the police? You have the power to destroy him!”
Michael was trembling, he got up anxiously. Ricky was pure evil, calculating and cold, of course he would have come up with a backup plan for this as well. “You don’t understand Sam…” Michael muttered in agony. ”He has the power to destroy me… He…”
“I could hire a private detective,” Sam said as calmly as he could and got up. ”And I think you’re wrong, you’re stronger than you think.”
Michael turned to Sam, clearly excited and scared.
”You were not there! You don’t know what it was like, and he knows so many people! Everyone has an explanation, and everyone would defend him! Ricky’s friend committed suicide because Ricky raped him and yet he’s wrapped that boys family around his finger! No one knows… ”
Sam felt bad, he looked at Michael sad, wanted to shake him so he could see a different kind of truth. “Then give a voice to him and all the others that the man has hurt! Michael, we need to tell the world what kind of man he is!”
“You don’t understand Sam, you can never understand, otherwise you wouldn’t demand that from me…” Michael sighed with tears in his eyes before walking to the bedroom, curling up on the bed and squeezing the pillow against his chest. He missed Jack, Jack would understand, he was the only one who could understand.
Sam count to ten to calm down before following the younger man to the bedroom. Michael was curled up on the bed without saying a word or looking at him and Sam sat quietly on the side of the bed next to him.
“You’re right, I can’t claim to be able to understand…” He began and hesitantly lowered his hand to Michael’s side. “I can’t even imagine what it’s been like… I just want to… I want to help… Keep you safe and… I want you to be happy… that you could live without fear… “Sam wanted to be patient to get closer.
“Without fear,” Michael whispered, as if tasting the words in his mouth. “That world is so cruel and when you see it, you can’t escape it anymore…” He continued, staring at the opposite wall and quietly bringing his hand to Sam’s hand. ”That’s my problem, I’m afraid because I want to live… Because I want to selfishly leave that afoul world behind and… be normal, while I know how hard it is, almost impossible.”
“To leave something behind, you have to face it first,” Sam said quietly and shook Michael’s hand. ”I want to be your support.”
”Things are not that simple….” Michael sighed, squeezing Sam’s hand back before turning on his back to see the other’s face. “Give me time, a little moment…. I need time to think, and I can’t handle this now, give me a moment to try what it would be like to live a normal life,” he brought his hand to the other’s face, stroking his cheek gently with his index finger. “A moment in life, maybe then I’m stronger to fight…” Michael remembered once swearing to himself that Ricky would get paid for all his bad deeds, but he had come a long way and was exhausted, maybe someone thought he was selfish, but he wanted this moment of false self-deception, a moment when he could make himself believe that he could live and forget the past. Sam closed his eyes for a moment and nodded, he couldn’t force Michael and gave in to his wish.
He laid down, next to Michael, and they kissed. Entangled in each other’s embrace and kissed with a burning desire, the outside world blurred, and it was easy to get lost in the moment where they were alone. Michael wanted to break free from his past and dive into Sam’s world and since it seemed like a good reality to be, Sam convinced himself to forget his worries, perhaps for too long as he would later regret not dragging Michael to the police station when it hadn’t been too late.