AJAX BELL

Author of the Queen City Boys books

(Deleted scene) Steven’s last day – This Charming Man

Spoilers for the end of This Charming Man. Cut scene between chapters 33 and 34, after Steven’s last day of work in John’s office, before their date and his new life begins, Steven goes out dancing to clear his head.


Steven spent his last day at work helping interview for John and Lisa’s new assistant. He balked initially, because he wasn’t an employee, but John insisted that since Steven had created the office’s new computer-based work flow, he was uniquely suited to help choose the person who’d do the job.

Being on the other end of interviewing was kind of refreshing. Still for everything he learned, Steven was sick with borrowed anxiety for much of the time he spent in that small conference room.

One woman appeared on the verge of tears for her whole interview. It was clear she was so nervous at talking to people she didn’t know that she wasn’t able to keep herself in check. Steven wished for a way to gently tell her to find a line of work that didn’t involve talking to people. Other interviewees made it clear, just from their answers, that they thought the job was below them.

Seeing how much people revealed about themselves in answers made Steven self-conscious about how he’d respond when he began looking for work next week. He kept notes during the interviews about what he’d do and not do.

It was exhausting, not least because he had to suppress a smile each time John caught his eye. Focusing on the candidates was a chore when John and Steven’s hands brushed and knees bumped more times than Steven could count, each event sending a frisson through him. But he kept it professional, although Lisa (more amused than annoyed) wondered aloud several times while they discussed interviewees whether they could look at her and not each other while they talked.

That night, Steven went dancing, unable to bear the tension of waiting for date night and filled with energy to burn off after the day’s not-very-casually-stolen glances. John had formally shaken his hand at the end of the day, thanking him for his work, and then whispered huskily in his ear, “I can’t wait to see you again.”

Steven danced without drugs but higher than he’d been a long time. Every beat a reminder that he might soon touch John, press against him and feel the rhythm of his heartbeat. Songs about love sent Steven’s hopes soaring. His mind never emptied to a clear meditative state, like dancing usually did for him. Instead he focused narrowly on the undercurrent and implications in John’s voice the last time they spoke, the warmth where their hands touched. Just the idea of future touches were better than any drug Steven had ever taken.

Neighbours was incredible, a bar filled with the most beautiful men, everyone happy, the music amping everything up, getting better and higher. It proved true: when you weren’t looking and want nothing, everyone wanted you. Steven was never without company on the dance floor. People offered to buy him drinks, cruised him in the bathroom. But Steven only smiled at each of them and shook his head at their offers. He had something brighter waiting for him.

“You’re glowing,” Adrian said as they passed each other at the bar, breaking the detente that dictated they merely nod in passing if they accidentally ended up in close proximity.

“You look flawless,” Steven answered, smiling. Adrian did, dressed entirely in silver except for the bright red collar at his neck that matched his lipstick and fingernails.

“Thank you.” Adrian kept moving past but Steven saw the corners of Adrian’s mouth curling up, his pleasure in the compliment evident in his expression as he hurried by.

For a fleeting moment Steven wanted to roll back time until he had his friend and confidant again. To slide back to an imaginary time when he could tell Adrian about John, about school, about Ryan, Davy, and Jess. Everything. And Adrian would be happy for him, would understand how Steven was finding a place in the world where he was respected and cared for. But that kind of relationship with Adrian was long past, years even, if it had ever existed outside Steven’s poor understanding of how the world worked.

The music took the worry away, clearing his head: the work day, his fears about the upcoming date, about what John thought, about Adrian. Just movement, music, and dreams of a handsome man. Steven was confident, beautiful, and alive as he hit every beat and let the melody carry him.

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