Letting the tie go, he would have let his hands flop to his sides if Tendo hadn’t caught one of them. Giving him what he hoped was a reassuring squeeze, he listened with the same patience he’d somehow always managed to show this stubborn, bitter man. Maybe he loved him too damn much.
“I will be fending you away from the bar at the first sign of you even looking at it,” he insisted, rolling his eyes. “If I have to burn it down you won’t be touching a drop.” Sighing, he resisted the urge to mess up the tie on purpose. “If you’re worried about introducing this vagrant Irish traveller to your old workmates, you can just say it,” he joked, probably tastelessly. “We’re going because you’ve been making progress. You can do this. And whether it’s a good idea or not, I’m going to be there to stop you weaselling out of it or emptying the bar. Even if you just show your face it’ll be a step forward. Okay?”
“Or we could burn it down. That’s an idea.” Knowing that he was being abrasively bitter and unable to stop it, Tendo’s fingers tightened around Jonathan’s hand a little convulsively. “It’s not that. You know it’s not that.” The former commander’s shoulders slumped and he shook his head. “I know… yeah. I do know. Maybe—maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s a step forward. Maybe. I just don’t know how I’m gonna face some of them after all this time.”
Letting go of Jonathan’s hand, Tendo met his partner’s eyes and his gaze softened, the sting leaving his voice. Jonathan was right, of course. This time of year was never easy, but the ten year mark heralded bigger events, more press, more commercialization, more talk of lost comrades and friends. It wasn’t avoidable. Neither was the invitation from the PPDC to attend reunion/memorial to all surviving members—not after Jonathan had found the invitation, that was. “It’s just been a very long time. I know that some of them have suffered the same things I have, I know that they’ll forgive me my distance. I feel… guilty. Ashamed of myself.” Tendo passed a hand over his face. “Forgive me. I am trying.”