Dorran’s life could be better.
He likes his job as a freelance translator, and he loves his boyfriend, but he and Eli have been fighting, and he’s not sure how to solve their problems. There’s nothing Dorran can do about seeing ghosts, no matter how much Eli hates it, and the situation with Eli’s family isn’t helping matters. Dorran wants to give Eli time to deal with his parents, but he also doesn’t want to be kept a secret.
Dorran temporarily forgets all about his problems when his neighbor, Emanuel, wakes him up at one in the morning and thrusts a bloody knife in his hands. Emanuel insists he didn’t kill his boyfriend. Dorran believes him, but everything points to him. Dorran isn’t sure he’ll be able to prove Emanuel had nothing to do with the murder, not even with the help of Francis, the ghost who shares his apartment. He’s going to try—there’s no way he’d letting an innocent man go to jail when he might be able to help, even though that might be the last drop that ends his relationship with Eli.
Dorran was enjoying himself until Eli’s phone rang.
He sighed and paused the movie. He was used to having their lives interrupted by Eli’s phone. With his job, Eli was often called away from him at any given time during the day, and while Dorran wished he wasn’t, he’d never said anything about it. He’d known what he was getting into when he’d started dating Eli. You didn’t date a detective without having to share him with his job.
Eli snatched the phone from the coffee table, looked at the screen, and grimaced. That was enough for Dorran to realize it wasn’t work. Eli loved his job, even though there were dead bodies involved.
“Hey, Ma,” Eli said. He wasn’t looking at Dorran, which was just as well.
Dorran was never happy when Eli talked to his mother or any other member of his family.
Dorran had liked the Hayes back when he and Eli were best friends as teenagers. He’d liked them when he and Eli had realized they were in love.
He didn’t quite like them now that they were still trying to get Eli to date women even though he’d come out to them.
Of course, he didn’t know that for sure, because he hadn’t seen them since he and Eli had gotten back together. Eli made sure the Dorran part of his life and the family part were kept separated, as if he was afraid that his family would find out he and Dorran were together.
He probably was.
“Yeah, I'll be there for Sunday lunch, don’t worry. Unless something comes up with work.”
Dorran could almost hear Eli’s mother. The woman’s voice was loud even when she didn’t try to be. He still remembered that, and it would have made him smile if he hadn’t been so miffed.
He knew he should get up and give Eli privacy. Eli kept sneaking glances at him as he talked to his mother, no doubt to gauge his reaction. But Dorran stayed where he was, his arms crossed over his chest, his gaze firmly on the paused film on the TV screen. This was one thing he wasn’t going to make easier for Eli—brushing him off as if he didn’t matter, as if he wasn’t even in Eli’s life.
“No, Ma. Yeah. I'll be alone.” Eli glanced at Dorran again.
Dorran didn’t move. Of course Eli would go alone to Sunday lunch with his parents. He and Dorran had been back together for months now, but he still hadn’t told them about him. They didn’t know he spent half his nights in Dorran’s bed. They didn’t know he spent most of his evenings on Dorran’s couch, making out with him.
“No, Ma. I told you, I’ll be alone. You know I don’t…no, I don’t have a girlfriend. Come on, Ma. Why are you even asking that? You know I’m not seeing anyone right now.”
Why was she asking that indeed?
Dorran decided he’d had enough of listening to a one-sided conversation in which Eli’s mother tried to fix him up with one of her friends’ daughters. It happened often enough that he knew about it, and he hated that Eli didn’t just remind his mother that since he was gay, he wouldn’t do much with a woman in his bed.
Eli never did, though.
Dorran got up and went to the kitchen. He could still hear Eli’s muttered conversation with his mother, but at least he couldn’t see the expression on Eli’s face. It was always a mix of embarrassment, pain, and defiance, as if he expected Dorran to force him to tell his mother about him. Dorran wished he could sometimes, but he knew better than to try. Eli would tell his mother about him when he was ready to do it and not one second before that.
But would he ever be ready?
Dorran realized it was hard for Eli. Even though he’d come out to his family several years ago, they hadn’t accepted it. They still behaved as if he was just a bachelor who hadn’t yet found the right woman. It had to hurt to see the people who meant the most to you behave that way.
But there was a reason why Dorran had broken up with Eli when they were eighteen, and this was it. He hadn’t wanted to stay in the closet, and even though he’d loved Eli back then, that had been more important than love.
It still was. Eli hadn’t asked Dorran to hide their relationship. Hell, he’d even told his partner on the force about them. But when it came to his family, he’d isolated Dorran from them, and Dorran was starting to be hurt by that. He didn’t want to become another son to them, but he also didn’t want to avoid them for the rest of his life—or as long as his relationship with Eli would last. They were a huge part of Eli’s life, and Dorran thought he was, too. Keeping them separate was stupid, and hurtful, at least to Dorran.
The fridge opened on its own, and a bottle of water came floating out of it. Dorran smiled and took it before it could land on the counter. “Thanks, Francis.”
An invisible hand squeezed Dorran’s shoulder.
He didn’t know if Francis was becoming stronger as more time passed since he’d died, or if Dorran’s ability to see and feel him was. Not that it mattered. Dorran was glad he had Francis right now, even though Francis was a ghost. “Thanks,” he said.
Francis wasn’t visible right now, but it took him a lot of energy to do that, so Dorran wasn’t worried. Francis tapped the back of Dorran’s hand in what Dorran thought was probably a question.