Chapter Ten

It was surprising for Lydia to come home in such a flurry. The ‘flurry’ so to speak, represented the fact that, in a small miniscule way, their entire friendship relied solely on how dramatically she greeted him the next time she’d see him. The surprise was more about the fact that she was back in general.

Lydia had been off on tour for the past two months, and while usually she was gone much longer than that, Bo couldn’t help but feel a stronger sense of missing her, given everything that was going on.

Bo had been half asleep on the couch in his apartment, a book in his hands and some cheesy straight romance movie on the tv. He hadn’t really been paying attention to it, not at any point in the movie, and he had made himself a cup of tea hours ago, and sipped it slowly, even though it had gone cold. There was something about today that felt exciting to him, despite the fact that it was just after eleven and he did not do much with his day. The explanation of where the excitement was came in the form of an excitable Lydia bursting through the door of his apartment with a loud; “Hello Doctor Jones!”

The words hit him in the face, and his entire thought process took a moment to resume before he leapt to his one foot and hopped half the distance between him and her. Lydia was quick to a bright smile, wrapping her arms around Bo and pulling him close.

It was very common for Lydia to burst into the room, she had her own key and the door man (on the days that he or she or they were there) knew her well enough to let her in.

Lydia was just a few inches shorter than him, but, in the strangest way, without his leg he seemed to be smaller than her by miles.

Bo laughed a full chested laugh that only really meant ‘I am not sure how to feel’, his arms wrapping around her waist as he took in the familiar feeling of being in her presence.

Lydia was warm and kind, she was a very bright personality that always made someone smile when she came into the room.

When Lydia pulled back, she laughed a bright laugh. “Don’t look so sad Ollie. I missed you too.”

Bo just nodded, hopping backwards and accepting the help offered to him by Lydia. She backed him up to the couch, helping with steady hands to lower him onto the cushion. Lydia didn’t sit, and Bo noticed that almost immediately. She smiled however, so Bradley knew that whatever it was wasn’t bad. He got his answer almost immediately, as she took a deep breath and spoke in a flush.

“What if I told you I was hungry?” Lydia asked, looking unsure as she glanced around the room.

Bradley followed her gaze, his apartment hadn’t changed minus the odd picture changing spots. If he were to change the entire layout of the room, or replace a couch, he would minorly, or even majorly in some cases, change his metaphorical schedule and he couldn’t wrap his mind around the idea. So the apartment rarely changed shape, and it almost never changed all at once. Lydia was usually the one to decorate for whatever the holiday was, and since it was just barely August there had been no need for decorations.

“You’re always hungry.” His reply was full of humor, and almost as soon as he said it he spoke again. “I don’t have any food, but we can go out.”

It was just after eleven and the city had only just started calming down. Bradley found his stomach growling just at the thought of going out and getting something to eat. He’d had lunch, but his stomach was full of tea when dinner had come around so he didn’t eat that.

“Great!” Lydia’s voice was much too loud, and at Bo’s wince, she smiled an apology and lowered it. “Where’s Frederick?”

The name made him smile.

Just after Bo had received his first leg, Lydia had quickly decided that she did not like referring to it as an ‘it’, and while she had quickly tried to give it some famous woman's name before almost just as quickly remembering which way Bradley swings. She settled on the name Fredrick after that realization.

“Down the hall, by the bedside table.” Bradley trusted Lydia in his home, and barely glanced at her as she made her way down to his bedroom.

He pushed himself to the edge of the couch, the heels of his hands digging into the material as he attempted to ground himself in this moment. It was a soft couch to sit on, but not necessarily material wise, rather the material was rouch, and grounding in every situation. He had an armchair for the nights that texture could be an issue, and soft blankets to cover the couch should the need arise. Bradley’s excitement was getting the best of him, his heart racing at the thought of catching up with Lydia, the material under his palms helped with the floating feeling.

Bo did not expect Lydia’s company so soon, she had signed on to do a tour as an understudy for a musical whose name constantly slipped his mind. She must have only just returned home, and Bo could not help but feel a special sort of honor at the thought of him being the first person she decided to see.

The offer of them going to get food was almost as if, despite being across the country, Lydia was fully aware of the lack of food the good doctor had been eating. It was very true that Bradley had found a consistency in Oscar and in Jessamine, but that did not mean that he remembered the necessary task of eating three meals a day when alone in his apartment. In contrast, he still found himself still scribbling little sticky notes of tasks that he often forgot.

To brush his teeth and mark the sticky note with a check once he did, and to not forget about turning off the coffee pot after he makes a cup, and at the end of Bo’s train of thought, Lydia returned. “Here we are.” She hoists Frederick into the air with both hands, before passing it off to the seated man.

It takes Bo a moment to pull the leg on. The loose fitting sweat pants certainly helped with the movement, it clicked into place audibly, and with Lydia’s help he let himself be pulled to his feet. She gave him a moment to adjust to standing with the prosthetic, and once he gave a bright smile she turned and stalked towards the door.

“That diner place around the corner is open twenty-four hours right?” Lydia pauses at the door, grabbing at the man’s favorite coat hanging on the rack and opening it for Bo to slip his arms into.

Bradley accepts the layer with a hum as a ‘yes’, pulling it closed around him and rubbing his face into the soft material. It was a soft grey, almost green, pea coat that while rather old and not exactly the best for winters in New York, it still kept him warm in any situation. He found himself surprisingly relaxed as he left his apartment, despite the time, and excited to catch up with Lydia over a cup of coffee, and maybe a waffle.

Waffle’s were Bradley’s favorite food.

Lydia considers the tall man walking beside her, the way that he smiles to himself and hugs his arm’s close to himself. He rubs the material of the collar against his cheek once again, which was a very common thing for him to do. The knowledge that his normal behaviors had not changed since she had been gone was a comfort to her. She loops her arm through his, pulling Bo close as they step out onto the street. He doesn’t limp tonight, instead Lydia can see a sort of confidence around every step.

Something has changed.

“Who is he?” Lydia’s question made the smaller man pause, his fake left foot clipped on his right ankle and he stumbled slightly, if not for Lydia he would have probably fallen.

“Who’s who? What?” Bo isn’t sure how to reply, his grip on her arm had tightened when she asked, but he hoped that she took the action as a steadying one, rather than a surprised or startled one.

Lydia begins to clarify, before pausing briefly in her words as the pair crossed the street. Bo’s grip on her tightened, and she found a speed in her step that would not usually have been there. The fact that Bo was there placed the urgency in her mind and Lydia took a deep cleansing breath when they reached the other side.

Bo glanced at her as she did, waiting for a clarifying addition to the questions as if speeding across crosswalks was his usual.

It took Lydia less then a moment to remember that it was, and while he promises more than anything that he is through the trauma of his accident (or in most cases working through it), it is obvious that he still struggles at times. It is not a dangerous struggle, but rather a constant one, and what care is there if the man tends to speed across the crosswalks rather than taking his time. It is not something that has a dangerous effect on his life, so who cares.

“You have this smile on your face and I know it isn’t just seeing me that makes you this happy.” Lydia said it in a tone that meant she was kidding, but she was almost sure that Bo would miss the tone.

“Can’t it just be?” Bo was not embarrassed to speak about Oscar. He stepped forward, opening the door for Lydia and putting a pin in the conversation that they were just having. More than anything he wished that she would forget the conversation in the time that it took for them to be seated.

Lydia spoke to the hostess, asking for a table for two in the corner, and Bradley admired the fact that she remembered his dislike of middle room tables.

There was barely a conversation between the two of them for some time, the waitress asked for drink orders, and then for food orders and so their conversation stayed light. Bo felt a strong feeling of dislike at the direction that their dialogue had previously gone in, and hoped that Lydia would forget, but she was much too good at common interactions.

“It can’t just be me that makes you happy, because, because-” Lydia cut herself off with a smile and a shake of her head, “because you are not as simple as that.”

It could have been an insult easily, but Bo took the potentially sharp words as a compliment. “I disagree with your declaration, but yes, there is someone.”

The shriek that came from the performer was not one that he would have usually been able to stand, but he could tell that the excitement was more the emotion than the noise itself. Lydia sips her coffee with a smile, bouncing back and forth as she watches and waits for Bo to reply.

Bradley smiled before he started to speak, hesitating only briefly to sip his own cup of coffee. “His name is Oscar, and his daughter’s name is Jessamine-” He meant to continue, but the loud gasp from Lydia was not one that he had expected.

“I cannot believe in the two months that I haven’t seen you, you got a boyfriend and a child.” Lydia threw her hair over her shoulder as she spoke, propping her chin up on both her hands and ignoring the fact that she had interrupted.

Bo simply shook his head. “She is not my child.” The statement was factually true, Jessamine was biologically not his child, but at this point in their relationship, Bo had already picked up on the fact that he felt as though Jessamine was his child. She relied on him more than he would have thought. “But I didn’t expect it either.”

“Tell me about him,” Lydia prompted, noticing how Bo seemed to hesitate in speaking. It wasn’t that he was shutting down, but rather he was just hesitating in his words. In reality, in Bo’s mind, he had so much to say and the ask helped to ground him in this moment. His thoughts lined back up as she asked another question, “How did the pair of you meet?”

Bo tensed up slightly as the waitress set his waffle down in front of him, and Lydia said a ‘thank you’ on behalf of the pair of them. He softened ever so slightly after the woman walked away, his face decorated in a small smile that kept his attention focused on cutting the waffle into small pieces and answering the question asked of him.

“He’s wonderful.” It was spoken softly, Lydia had to strain to hear the words properly. “I was crossing the street, and when I reached the other side my heel caught on the curb. I told myself I’d be embarrassed to hit the ground, but that I would brush it off and get to my feet, but I crashed into him.”

It was said with an emphasis on ‘him’, as if there was nothing quite worse than the interaction that came from the incident. Bo was a blushing mess, his hands lifted to cover his cheeks as he rocked ever so slightly back and forth. It took very little prompting for the man to start speaking again, a bright smile on his face that met his eyes.

“It hurt, my chin cracked against the ground, and he landed on top of me. I thought maybe he would leave me on the ground out of embarrassment.” Bo said it with a shake of his head his smile did not fade.

If Lydia could reach the man, she would have smacked his shoulder but instead she took to stabbing rather aggressively at the hashbrowns on her plate and pointing at him. “No one is that cruel.”

Bo waved off the interaction, forking a bite of his food into his mouth and chewing in an intentional way. “He helped me off, and was very apologetic, I almost instantly shut down, I was so fucking embarassed.”

Lydia grinned, language like that was not unexpected in the man, for no other reason than he just did not understand the social connotation of using one of the words. It often slipped in when he was feeling an emotion stronger than normal, and from the fact that Bo was nearly vibrating in front of her, she could tell he was excited.

When he opened his mouth to continue his story, Lydia interrupted, “Take a few deep breaths for me Ollie.” It was a soft command, and Bradley complied without thinking about it. Almost instantly his hands ceased their shaking, and after a few more breaths he continued speaking.

“I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to stand, you know how it is-” Bo waited for a nod of confirmation about the situation he was referencing, “He helped me up, and when I apologized, he said that it was his fault. Oscar was so embarrassed, and when I tried to say goodbye he introduced himself.”

The story continued, not in any way romanticized as Bo was very content in sharing just the facts.

“He tried to shake my hand as he did,” Bo said it and Lydia shook her head in a ‘should-have-known-better’ sort of way, a smile on her face as her best friend continued telling this tale. “He gave his full name, Oscar-Michael Torres, and asked mine. I didn’t feel comfortable sharing, so I just said ‘Bo’ because that is what everyone calls me.”

Lydia couldn’t help but feel as though this Oscar character was rather perfect for Bo, and he sounded kind. Bo needed someone that was a constant bright figure and even though she wanted Bo to continue his tale, she didn’t press for it, watching as Bo took a sip of his coffee and ate a few bites of his waffle. He was rather curious when he ate, and at this point in their knowing each other Lydia was in full knowledge of why.

He liked the number three, and would eat as many bites before taking a sip of his coffee. Bo often looked distracted when he ate, and it was entirely because of the fact that he would forget to chew if he didn’t actively think about it while taking bites.

When he spoke again, it was with a clear voice, loud enough and with a bright smile. “I told him I had somewhere to be, because I was so embarrassed with the situation.” Repetition of emotions was common in Bo’s language. “He smiled, kinda like when you do when you have a secret and said ‘No you don’t, but that’s okay.’”

Both Lydia and Bo laughed at that, and it took the latter a moment to continue. “He asked me for my phone number, and I gave it to him without really thinking about it.” Bo shrugged it off, as if he hadn’t given his number to a potentially dangerous someone. “I hadn’t expected anything to come from it, but-”

Bo cut himself off rather suddenly, eating a few bites of his waffle as if he hadn’t just been talking, he looked to Lydia expectantly.

At this point in their friendship, Lydia thought that she was aware of most of Bradley’s habits and happenings, but it would appear that the past few months of being apart had thrown off this knowledge. Lydia did not know why, at first, Bo had looked at her in such a way, and after hesitating for a few moments, she realized that Bo wanted her to comment on it, and she had quite a lot to say.

“So then, you crashed into a man on the street, and after giving your nickname you then proceeded to lie to him as well as give him your number?” It was not something she needed confirming, but the way that Bo blushed made her smile and appreciate the comment. “I think I like him.”

Bo smiled around the edge of his mug, “Me too.” His voice was just barely over a whisper, and the comment was meant more for himself than for Lydia.

“Our first date was brunch, it was supposed to just be the pair of us, but I also met his daughter then. She was so happy to meet me, and we got along pretty well.” Bo smiled, “But enough about him, what about you? Did you ever ask out that girl you wouldn’t tell me about?”

It was a loaded question, and Bo meant it more dramatically than anything else.

Bo was fully aware of Lydia’s need to be independent and secretive in most aspects of her life. So much of her life was broadcasted to the world (much like how Bradley’s used to be) that being secretive about certain things was a constant. Though Bo still felt the need to incessantly (in some cases) tease her, and on the opposite side of things, Lydia was fully aware that Bo was teasing more than anything else. In Lydia’s eyes, Bo was the one person in her life that she could share everything to, though she could acknowledge the fact that Bo did not share everything with her, it wasn’t in his nature.

“She and I do not see eye to eye on matters that I believed we did.” Lydia sighed as she said it, only as if remembering very suddenly the entire experience.

Bo glanced in a way that shared the confusion he was feeling, but did not request any more information than Lydia was ready to give.

Lydia rolled her eyes, placing her fork down rather aggressively and threading her fingers together under her chin. “She believes that it is okay to feel a certain way towards other women, but to act on them would be a sin.” She hesitated, “I can respect the decision, but I wish she hadn’t led me on in the way she did, and I want her to realize that there is more to life than marrying a man and not acting on feelings that you wish to feel.”

Bo could understand the sentiments, he had been like that as a teenager, and now he was fully in acceptance of his sexuality and his beliefs in God. Though he could see the disconnect that most people would focus on in certain situations.

“Sorry my love.” Bo used the addition of the affectionate term to show that he was there for her. “I hate that that’s happened.”

Lydia hummed, shaking her head and shrugging her shoulders. She picked her fork back up and shoveled a bite of her hash browns in her mouth. Lydia chewed on it noisily for barely a few seconds, using it as a dramatic period to the end of the conversation, before continuing on silently.

The pair continued on eating in silence. Bo would take three bites of his waffle and then a sip of the coffee that Lydia always thought to bitter for her own taste.

“-wouldn’t think about it like that.” Bo looked up suddenly, recognizing the voice as one that he would particularly not like to hear in the instance.

The woman that the voice belonged to had a kind face, that was the first thing that Lydia noticed, and the second would be the way that Bradley straightened up in his seat. His grip tightened around the fork in his hand and he looked back down at the table rather aggressively.

Lydia hummed, waving to the waitress and making the universal sign asking for the check. It took the waitress a moment to bring it, and at this point, Bo was rather stiff as he set his fork down on the table.

“Come on then, let’s walk back home.” Lydia used the word ‘home’ as a placeholder. It was not her home, but rather just Bo’s, and she had only ever stayed the night a dozen or so times since the beginning of their friendship, though Bo had stayed at hers around once a week back months ago.

Bo let the smaller woman pull him to his feet, his left leg clicked audibly in response to having weight put on it, and the sharp sound pressed at his ears just a bit too much for him to be okay with it.

Lydia looped her arms with his, smiling and muttering a funny story she was sure Bo had heard before, it was used as a grounding technique, rather than the actual telling of a story.

When the pair stepped into the cold, Bo pulled his coat tighter around him, looking up at the stars that could barely be seen and continuing forward as though the action were perfectly normal. Lydia kept a cautious arm around her friend's elbow, keeping him straight going on the road rather than weaving back and forth.

These- the bright symbols of man’s hope and fame, in which he reads his blessing or his curse- are syllables with which God speaks his name, in the vast utterance of the universe.” Bo spoke in a whisper, his voice almost echoing on the empty streets as he did not look down from the night sky.

And in that moment, Lydia knew why her friend was so insistent to be back on the stage, the way that he could capture someone's attention with the recitation of words that did not belong to him. In a lot of situations, Bradley found comfort in repeating the words of others, as his mind was full of book quotes and lectures he had attended. Lydia did not have the same sentiments, though she did love it on the nights where she could get Bradley to have a few more drinks than normal and he would recite entire sonnets or monologues from shows and Shakespearian times.

“And whose words are those?” Lydia looked up at the man, watching the easy smile on his face as he finally brought his eyes down from the sky.

“Madison Cawein.” The name was supplied easily, and Lydia smiled and nodded in an appreciative way. “I’ve not read much of her work, but that seems to stick around.”

Bo recognized his obsession with the stars, but didn’t mind the fact.

When they arrived home, Lydia pressed a kiss to his cheek outside the building, recognizing the boundaries that were in place. Bo muttered a goodbye in a voice that was happy, and continued up to his apartment alone.

And just as in times before, his eyes found the bought star on the wall beside his porch, and a sense of slight unease filled his mind as he found himself walking to his bedroom in the back of the apartment.

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