Today’s Story a Day prompt was to torture your protagonist. I may have a little too much fun with this. Particularly when it comes to emotional torture. In today’s story, Cam and Gio are both trying to figure out where they’re going and come face to face with each other before they’re ready to.
Gio stepped up onto the porch and rubbed his hand over his eyes again. He hadn’t been able to stay still after Cormac had left his apartment. Too many thoughts crashed through his head. The loudest of all: Cam didn’t do it. he’d been innocent and Gio had just shoved him out. How was he supposed to make it up to him?
Would he do it every time he thought Cam had screwed up? That wouldn’t be fair. Gio should have trusted him, he wanted to trust him. But, it had been all too easy to believe the worst of him.
And what did that make Gio? not any better than Cormac, who always seemed to believe the worst of people until they prove themselves beyond a shadow of doubt. You see the good in people. His mom had said that. But, he hadn’t let himself see the good in Cam, had been too afraid of the bad that might be there.
He’d been wrong, and he didn’t know how to fix it.
Nolan had helped talk him through things before, though. Caitie had mentioned the firefighter had been going to college for psychology before he’d joined up with the Marine Corps. When he got out, he’d gone into the fire department instead of returning to school, though. He’d always wondered why. he seemed to be so good at helping people work through their problems. He wondered if Nolan got tired of everyone wanting his help with that, though.
Still, with Caitie on her way home from Scotland, at least he thought they’d be on the plane by now, he didn’t have anyone else to really turn to. He was afraid his family would be a little too biased about this. Nolan might know both of them, but Gio thought the other man would still be able to give an honest opinion about the situation.
So, why was he standing out here in the cold instead of just knocking on the door? He rubbed his hands together then stepped forward and did just that. When the door swung open, something hard and cold slammed right into him. “Wh-what are you doing here?”
Cam stared back at him, his mouth hanging open. “I…what are you doing here, Gio?”
“Maybe you should answer me first.” No, no, no. his thoughts could not go there. Even if he was sure Cam wouldn’t do that, he knew without a doubt Nolan would never cheat on Maura.
“Maybe you should come in first. it’s still cold out there.”
Gio hesitated. He certainly hadn’t been expecting this turn of events. But, he nodded when a shiver ran over his body. It was cold out, so he stepped into the house. As they walked into the living room, a small form hurtled at Cam. “Again, again,” it squealed. “Upside down again.”
With a laugh, Cam turned and swept the little girl up, flipping her so the tips of her hair just brushed the carpet. A rush went through Gio at the sight. This was a whole different side to Cam than he’d ever seen. One he really hadn’t expected. But, it lightened something around his heart.
“What’s…Oh, Gio,” Maura said, stepping into the living room. “I wasn’t expecting you. Are Mark and Caitie home already?”
He shook his head and forced his gaze away from where Cam was flipping the girl right side up, much to her disappointment. “Their plane should be getting into Pittsburgh late tonight. They’re hopping a short flight to Erie in the morning, and Dad’s going to pick them up there, rather than them renting a car and driving all the way up here.”
“Oh, right. I think Nolan mentioned that. I don’t remember baby brain being so bad with the other kids either.”
He felt like he’d missed something, but Cam said, “You feeling better then? You look a little better than you did earlier.”
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were flirting with me, Cam.” Gio risked a glance at the other man and saw his face flush. Then, Maura laughed. “you’d have to work on your flirting game, though. You don’t tell a woman she looked like shit. And, yes, a nap is apparently just what I needed.”
Cam laughed and set Dalila on her feet. “I don’t believe I ever said that. You did look like death warmed over, though.”
“What is going on here?” Gio asked.
Maura turned to him then, and she studied him a moment before flicking her eyes to Cam then back to Gio. “Not what you seem to be thinking. Cam called Nolan in the middle of the night, rather upset. Nolan didn’t want to leave him alone, so he had him crash on the couch.”
Gio couldn’t help looking over at Cam at that. He stood stiffly, not looking at either of them. “You were that upset?”
“What did you expect? You believed my brother over me. I’ve told you he lies and stretches the truth to suit him and still you believed him. I don’t know how he learned-”
“it was my brother,” Gio said, even though the words felt like they tore at his throat. “It was Cormac. He came and told me this morning.”
“So, Nolan was right then. Go figure.”
Gio wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but he looked over at Maura, who looked like she was about to cry now. “I’m sorry,” Gio said, reaching out a hand to her. “I didn’t mean to upset you.” Though he wasn’t sure what he’d said to do that.
She shook her head even as she wiped more tears away. “Ignore the emotional pregnant woman. Come on, Dalila. I think we should let them talk.”
“Wait,” Gio said. “Is Nolan here? I wanted to talk to him.”
Maura shook her head. “Sorry. He had to work today. He won’t be home until tomorrow morning.”
Gio’s shoulders slumped. That was the whole reason he’d come over. And now his chest ached from looking at Cam. Knowing he might have been the one to screw everything up this time. Neither of them spoke as Maura took Dalila’s hand and started out of the room.
“But, Mommy, I wanted to play with Uncle Cam some more.”
Gio saw something flash through Cam’s eyes at that, like a part of him had cracked open.
“She called me uncle,” he said softly. “We’re not even related. But, she called me Uncle Cam.”
“Do you have nieces and nephews?”
He shook his head but in contrast to that said, “Elliot has a couple kids. I’ve never met any of them.”
Gio tried to imagine not knowing any of Cormac’s kids. And he just…couldn’t. It hurt too much. “Look, Cam. I…I’m sorry. For not believing you.”
Cam’s eyes were shadowed when he looked back at Gio. “And for thinking I’d try to wreck Nolan’s marriage?”
Gio shook his head. “I didn’t. Not really. I was just surprised to find you here, and didn’t know what to think.”
“What are we doing, Gio? Obviously this isn’t going to work. We can’t even trust each other.”
Tears backed up in Gio’s throat. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I want to trust you. But, I’m so afraid it will happen again. I don’t know what to do.”
He hated the misery he could see in Cam’s eyes, but the next words out of the man’s mouth nearly broke him. “You need to figure it out then. Because I won’t be second choice again. I want something real, and for a couple days I thought I could have it with you. if I can’t, then maybe it’s best I go somewhere else.”
“No.” he hadn’t meant the word to come out so strong. “I don’t want you to leave the pub. No matter what happens between us. Please, Cam.”
But, Cam couldn’t even look at him now. Gio turned toward the door. but, just as he grabbed onto the handle, he heard a broken, “I love you. Keep that in mind.”
The words nearly tore him apart, but he stepped out onto the porch. He needed to figure this out, but he couldn’t do it with Cam’s words bouncing around his head.