An Afterward

Jamie rolled over onto his other side, expecting to meet Sweetie’s limp body or, at least, his warm and welcoming arms. Instead, he found Sweetie awake, tense, and unreceptive. Jamie propped himself up on an elbow and looked down. He knew better than to ask what was wrong, so he jumped right into it. “She’ll be all right. She’s just down the hall. Nik and Auntie Al are with her.”

Sweetie nodded and rubbed his forehead. “Yeah, I know. I was thinking about you, actually.”

“Me?” Jamie’s eyebrows rose. “Well, I’m fine, too. You’re with me.” He directed a deep yawn into his shoulder. “A little tired, maybe, but that shouldn’t be keeping you awake at night.” He reached out to cuddle Sweetie to him, but Sweetie was still stiff in his arms. Jamie was taken aback. “God, baby, what’s the matter?”

There were tears behind Sweetie’s brown eyes. “What if I hurt you?” he blurted out. “What if I get mad about something and punch you? You know what my right hook is like. Or worse, what if I hurt you and don’t realize I’m doing it?” Angrily, he scrubbed the tears out of his eyes before they could hit his cheeks. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Hey,” Jamie said, kissing Sweetie’s cheek. “I’m not made of glass, you know. A punch or two won’t kill me.”

“That’s so not the point,” Sweetie said, his voice trembling slightly. “Maybe… maybe we shouldn’t…”

Jamie gave a laugh. “Is my fear of relationships rubbing off on you now?” Instead of answering, Sweetie rubbed tears away again. “Look, Sweetie, you’re not that guy, and I should know.” His thumb was large, rough, but his touch was gentle as it ran against Sweetie’s cheek. “I’m not saying that we won’t argue. I can’t guarantee anything. But I do know you well enough to know you won’t let yourself get to the point where you abuse me.”

“You can’t know that,” said Sweetie, shakily.

“Of course I can’t… but I know you and I trust you and I love you. And if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.” He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Now, are we going to lie awake worrying about something that will probably never happen, or are we going to get some sleep?”

Sweetie still looked worried. “You promise you’ll tell me if—”

Jamie hushed him with a kiss. “Yeah. If you’re being an ass, you bet I’ll tell you.”

“But what if—”

“Dom!” Jamie laughed. “You’re being an ass. I’m fine. We’re fine.” He pulled Sweetie against him, and this time the man cuddled into his chest willingly. He ran his hand through the straight brown hair and pressed his lips to the warm forehead.