I don't know what first drew my attention. I can't remember when I first began to wonder or what made me think to look a second time. All I know is that once I started I couldn't stop; I was obsessed with finding proof of my suspicions. And I got it. In a thousand different ways, I got it.
They are smiling at each other again. Their heads are almost touching as they bow over the paper and they laugh, eyes locked. I am almost certain that they will kiss because a kiss would be the natural progression of things. Then Blink shifts slightly to the left and Mush points out a typo and the moment is lost.
But it was there.
I swear it was there. Out in the open, where anyone could see. Where I could see. I glance down at my own paper, determined not to see again.
Blink's sitting on Mush's bunk, legs dangling over the edge as he rambles on about a girl with rose petal lips. It's poetic, listening to him. His hands dart and weave as he paints his story and I can almost taste the wine on her tongue as he details that first tender kiss. I lean forward, ignoring the way Jack's hand brushes across my leg and listen for all I am worth.
Movement catches my eye and I am suddenly focused on the slightly irritated look on Mush's face. He purses his lips and raises his eyebrows as Blink begins to extol the myriad of pleasures the girl offered him. He elbows Blink and rolls his eyes, which makes his companion shrug and grin.
They share a knowing look and I wonder, not for the first time, just what it is about their friendship that lets them exchange thoughts without saying a word.
Mush is frowning. Which doesn't happen often. His hands are shoved into his pockets and his cap is pulled down so far it practically covers his eyes. He hunches his shoulders, kicking at the trash at his feet. Blink stands next to him, talking in a voice so low I can't make it out, even though I am almost close enough to touch the pair.
Mush nods, his eyes still on the ground and Blink slings an arm across his shoulders.
Mush glances up then, his carefully hidden eyes on display. He is still frowning, his hands are still shoved deep into his pockets, but the anger and frustration that marked his posture have gone. He looks at his friend, eyes dancing, and I glance away, not wanting to witness so personal an expression.
It's raining. Not a pleasant rain. Not to kind you want to take your hat off in. The sound of it is echoing around the upper level of the lodging house and the boys are all sniffing and coughing with what will clearly be the first round of winter colds.
Blink is in a corner, his hat in his hands. He twists it as his eyes scan the room once more, looking for someone who still isn't there. He scowls and stands up, starting to pace from one end of the room to the other. He glances at the door every now and then and when he comes close enough I can hear him muttering about fools and the rain.
I'm sitting with Race and Jack, who are complaining loudly as we half-heartedly play a game of lottery. After a few minutes of Blink's pacing, Race nudges Jack and jerks his head in the other boy's direction. Jack frowns and rubs his neck, then calls out loudly to Blink, telling him to stop acting like a mother hen.
Blink's face goes red as he objects loudly to Jack's accusations. He sits, tapping his hand against his leg and doesn't look happy until Mush finally walks through the door a good hour later.
Mornings are never a pleasant time at the lodging house and I am glad that I don't often have to witness them. The noise and chaos are enough to make a reasonable man irritated. And I am never reasonable in the morning. I sit up, yawning, and wonder why I let Jack talk me into to handing over the four cents last night instead of just walking home.
I rub my eyes and watch as Blink slips his patch into place, hands running through his hair as he adjusts the band. Mush, dressed in only his britches and suspenders, comes alongside him and pats him affectionately on the cheek as he says something with that grin that seems to split open his face.
Blink swats at his hand and answer Mush with a slight jab in the stomach. Then he laughs and dodges Mush's punch as he starts to button up his shirt. Mush watches him with an amused expression, affection clearly stamped across his face. He doesn't even bother to finish dressing.
As I hurry after Jack I can hear Blink loudly complaining about being late on account of Mush's laziness. But I see him smile as he says it and I have a hard time believing that he is in anyway disappointed about having to remain behind with his friend.
Mush is drunk. Has been most of the night. He's been singing and sloshing beer all over himself for the past fifteen minutes. Blink is beside him, arm slung companionably over his shoulder, singing as loud as his friend. He is not, however, drunk. Which is why I am surprised at the way he moves, leaning into Mush with exaggerated carelessness.
His arm slips off of Mush's shoulder and down to his waist, his fingers almost appearing to caress the other boy's stomach. He burps and then whistles at the barmaid, who winks at him and licks her lips. He burps again and lifts his cup in her appreciation as she saunters past the table; hips rolling in ways that make my eyes cling to them.
Mush stops singing then, glaring down at his cup as he scoots away from Blink on the bench. Blink gives him an uncertain look, his whole body tense with something I am nearly certain is fear. I watch as Blink gives his biggest smile and follows Mush, arm tightening enough that the muscles become defined.
Mush gives him a dirty look and calls out to one of the girls asking her how much a night would cost him in a voice as shaky as it is slurred. She gives him an appraising glance then promises that he could have a go at half her normal price on account of how pretty he is.
He opens his mouth to reply but whatever he says is drown out by Blink, who loudly pronounces that no friend of his is going off with a moth-eaten bit of lace when he's too soused to know what to do with her. I wait for Mush to object, but he never does. Instead he spends the rest of the night with Blink's arm around his waist and his hand stroking Blink's thigh under the scant cover of the table.
Jack is mad. He storms around the room, snipping at anyone who happens to get in his way. He glares at Race, curses at Skittery and nearly exchanges blows with Dutchy. I'm the one he's mad at and I'm sure that sooner or later he will tell me why. Until then, I'm ignoring him.
I hear him curse again and am tempted to glance over and see what has set him off now, but decide it is best not to. And besides, if I did I would miss the heated conversation that Blink and Mush are engaged in. They are sitting on Blink's bunk, bodies angled towards each other. They are both clearly mad, as mad as Jack, I think. Mush's jaw is clenched tight and he nods at something Blink says in a low whisper.
I try to overhear what they are saying, but Jack is talking so loudly that I can't understand more then a word or two. Blink reaches out to touch Mush and Mush jerks back, his voice raised loud enough for me to hear him tell Blink to keep his hands to himself in a voice filled with ice. Blink gives him a hurt look and says something, but I miss it because Jack is now yelling at Specs, who is just as loudly defending himself.
Frustrated, I glance over my shoulder at Jack and tell him to knock it off, which makes everyone in the room go silent. Jack crosses the room faster then I thought possible, his eyes wide and his finger pointing in my face. I roll my eyes at him and stand up, sick of not understanding what is going on around me.
Jack hands me a drink and follows my gaze, frowning. I thank him reflexively and go back to watching Mush and the pretty little redhead sitting next to him. She's laughing at something he said and he tucks a curl behind her ear, smiling down at her. She blushes, eyes lowering demurely and I hear a snort.
I glance to the side and see Blink, face as hard as if carved in granite. I can't quite read his expression and so I turn my attention to him instead. I watch him watching them and realize that it's hurt I see in his eyes. He flinches as Mush leans over to whisper in her ear. It's pain that flashes across his face as she hesitatingly kisses Mush's cheek.
I want to comfort him, but don't know how.
What can I say? That Mush has never looked at anyone with the same intensity I've seen him stare at Blink with? That Mush only ever really smiles when Blink is by his side? That Mush can't go ten minutes without mentioning Blink when he's not there with him? That there is more affection in the way Mush casually touches Blink's arm then there is when he kisses the redhead seated so prettily beside him?
I say nothing and Blink continues to scowl, drinking until he can't walk and Jack and I have to carry him home.
Blink is whispering furiously at Mush, his eyes pleading. He is clearly agitated and runs a hand over his face when Mush shakes his head no. He tries again, gesturing to add emphasis to his arguments. Mush just glares at him, arms crossed defensively over his chest.
Beside me Jack clears his throat. "That's personal," he says, and I don't even pretend not to understand.
They are smiling at each other again. Their heads are almost touching as they bow over the paper and they laugh, eyes locked. I am almost certain that they will kiss because a kiss would be the natural progression of things. Blink shifts slightly and Mush angles his head so that when their lips met their noses don't.
And they are kissing.
Out in the open, where anyone can see. Where I can see. I glance down at my own paper and smile, certain that it is something I will see again.