Tibial sat on the bed in the hotel room. He peeled the wig off his sticky, sweaty scalp, sighing with relief and hurling it across the room with a grim satisfaction. Mia was in the shower. Chad was outside, smoking cigarette after cigarette, like he was trying to drown himself in a cloud of smoke. Tibial flopped down on his stomach, feeling the scratch of the comforter against his cheek. He was exhausted.
Mia came out of the bathroom several minutes later, dressed with her damp hair clinging to her head and neck. She snapped her towel at him playfully. "Go wash your face off. You look weird."
Tibial got up, scrubbed his face with cold water and soap. When he came back out, drying his face off, he saw Mia looking at a map. "I picked this up at the station. I think where we are now is okay, but I would feel better if we were a little further west. It'll be safer."
"Okay," Tibial said, watching her. "Why are you doing this?"
She looked at him and smiled, her eyes sad. "I didn't want you to die. I wanted you to be around for our baby."
"I don't know. But I still don't want you dead." She sighed and tucked a curl back behind her ear. "You say that you're not a homosexual. But you've coupled with that guy outside and made me take him with us. Do you love him? Do you love me?"
"I love both of you. Just in different ways."
Mia pressed her lips together, looked away. When she spoke again, there was a frosty undertone to her voice. "I don't want to raise this kid without a father. But I won't let it be raised by a deviant either."
Tibial swallowed, and when he spoke, his voice wasn't as steady as he would have liked. "So what are you saying?"
"I'm saying that you have to make a choice. You can't have both of us. It's not fair. It's not fair to me, it's not fair to him and it's not fair to you. It's not fucking fair to anybody."
"Mia-" She took a step back and when he reached for her, she angrily slapped his hand away.
"Don't touch me," she snapped. "Not right now, don't you dare."
She folded up the map and left the room. Tibial watched her leave, feeling a moment of stunned hurt at her reaction. Still, she had the right to be angry. She was right; he had to make a choice. But he didn't know if he could.
* * *
Chad hadn't thought a lot about Mia before today. But after he heard their conversation through the open window of the hotel room, he thought he might like her a little.
He took another drag off his cigarette. Once they had checked into the hotel he had found a cigarette dispenser and bought two packs and had been smoking steadily ever since. He was on the verge of making himself sick if he didn't stop soon.
He flicked some ash off the end of the cigarette. He loved Tibial, deeply and intensely but sometimes it was so easy to forget that Tibial was still young, a teenager. The entire time they had been together, Tibial had been reluctant to make a decision, and Chad had loved him enough to indulge him, to allow him his comforting indecision if it made him happy. But Tibial had failed to realize that yes, it was unfair, but it also hurt. Hurt Tibial, hurt him.
So... are you going to tell her no?
I've already told her yes.
He would never admit it, but yeah, that had hurt a lot. He took another drag.
Maybe Tibial was a little spoiled. Not wanting to make a decision because he didn't want to hurt anybody. But he was hurting everybody much more by not deciding. He was glad Mia was forcing his hand, even though he was a little worried about the outcome. He knew Tibial loved him, but he didn't know if he could compete with a girlfriend and a baby: a normal life. As normal as one could get, being a fugitive.
He heard the door open and close behind him. A moment later, Tibial's arms wrapped around his waist and he felt the weight of Tibial's head against his back. Chad tossed his cigarette away. "We'll be seen," he said.
"There's no-one out here," Tibial said, his reply muffled. But he did step away from Chad, moved to stand next to him.
"Talk to me," Tibial finally said.
"Because it's bothering you."
Chad exhaled a long breath, seriously thought about another cigarette. Things seemed simpler with a cigarette between his fingers, the burn of smoke in his throat, the scent of it lingering in the air and on his fingers. "It doesn’t matter. You might have had a chance. But we are both dead men now."
"Only if we get caught."
Chad shrugged. "I had little enough of a life to walk away from. You had a future before you.”
A future with Mia you mean, Tibial thought. But what if I want a future with you instead? Tibial reached up, cupped Chad’s jaw in his hand. "I’m sorry.”
Chad turned his head, pressing his lips into Tibial’s palm. Mia rounded the corner at that moment and saw them. Chad could clearly see the unmistakable glint of disgust mixed with heavy contempt in her eyes. He sighed inwardly and stepped away from Tibial.
He needed some more cigarettes.
* * *
Tibial had a miserable night. He was so tired, so ready to sleep, but in the small, two bed room, there was no place for him. When he tried to lay down with Chad, Chad gently but firmly insisted that he should sleep with Mia.
"Why?" Tibial had asked softly. "Just because she's here doesn't-"
"Because she is here is why," Chad said. "She's hurt and she's angry and very confused. I don't think it would be appropriate for you to sleep with me while she's here. I think that would make things between you two worse and that's the last thing you need right now." Chad pulled him down, kissed him softly and chastely. "Go on. Lay with her and talk to her. Figure out where the two of you stand."
"Do it, Tib, I think that's best."
Tibial was prepared to argue. He wanted, very badly, to be comforted. To be able to lie down next to him and feel Chad's skin against his, to feel the heat of his body and to have his arms around him, to just take him away from all this exhaustion, all this tension, all the anger and wounded emotions for just a little while, just a couple hours. To be loved and embraced. To be cared for. To do the same thing in return. Just a little. No sex, just closeness. And Chad was telling him no, to go back to Mia, to go back to the woman with whom he had built a false relationship, to go back and try to fix the damage caused by his web of lies and false love. Tibial didn't know if he could deal with that right now.
"I can't," Tibial whispered, pleadingly. "Please, I don't think I can right now."
"I know," Chad said, not looking at him. "That's why you should. You need to deal with this. You can't pretend everything is okay, when it's not. At least try to start making things right with her. It's not fair for her to be here with no one on her side."
"Go Tibial, I mean it."
Tibial, feeling hurt by his rejection, went to speak to Mia. "Hey," he said, kneeling next to her bed and speaking softly. From the corner of his eye, he could see Chad roll over and presumably fall asleep.
Mia glared at him. "What do you want?" she asked. Her voice was soft, but had a harsh ragged edge to it, her eyes red rimmed.
I want to make everything right but I'm not sure how, Tibial thought. I want what I can't have and keep what I feel slipping away.
"I wanted to see how you are doing," Tibial said.
"How I'm doing?" Mia replied. "I have spent the last several months puking my guts out due to the baby you planted inside me. I have been disgraced and humiliated by having a lover that is a homo. I have hurt my family, who I may never see again, to help you. I have given you everything I have to give and all you care about is that man, that man that turned you into a disgusting freak, a pervert, a-"
"Watch your mouth lady," Tibial said softly. "I do not deny that I have hurt you and taken things, important things from you in my careless disregard of your feelings. I am deeply, genuinely sorry for that. But I will not be called a freak for being in love. And if you need to blame somebody for what's happening, blame me, not him."
"I should never have bothered saving you," Mia bit out. "I should have stood back and watched you hang."
"Then why did you?"
"I thought you still loved me."
"I do love you."
"Not the way you do him. I'm not stupid Tibial. I saw the way you look at him, the way you touch him. You've never looked at me that way, not once. Don't you dare ever tell me you love me that way, don't you ever lie to me like that. And don't ever touch me. Ever. I don't want your hands on me after they've been on him."
"Shut up. Just please shut up and let me sleep. And I would appreciate it if you would no longer use my casual name," Mia shut her eyes and burrowed down into her comforter.
"As you wish lady," Tibial whispered, too soft for anyone to hear but himself as he stood up, turned the lamp off.
Momentarily he found himself facing a ridiculous quandary. Where the hell was he supposed to sleep? The bathtub?
He finally felt his way to a chair near the window and curled up inside it, tucking his knees to his chest. Mia's rejection had stung, but he could handle that. Chad's rejection had wounded him deeply, but he would survive. Rejection from both of them in one night though... he was beginning to hate his situation.
Mia had wanted to rescue him.
But Tibial had the idea he would have found a more welcome freedom at the end of the hangman's noose than he did right now in a small hotel room heavy with the feeling of cold bitter hate in the stale air.