A comfort fic, one of my favourites.
Fire Held High and Away by Miriam Heddy
Ray was examining the menu and I found myself watching him, not really caring what I ate. He was dressed in a grey suit and a pale green shirt. He'd thrown the tie off at the first opportunity and had unbuttoned the first few buttons of his shirt. The hair peeking out was grey, and I looked away, realising I'd started to stare. Two tables over I saw two men having dinner, intent on their own conversation. The rest of the room held a number of ordinary couples, two nearest the door, two more along the far wall. Near the back were three tables with larger mixed groups. I surveyed the perimeter out of careful habit, vows of no business aside. But also because I was aware again of what we might look like to someone else. Two business associates? On a Friday night? Perhaps. In the West End--definitely could be, you get people out on business even on a Friday. Friends? Rather sad ones, who hadn't found dates for the evening. But, not one for modesty, I knew we were both desirable enough. Our companionship was not for lack of willing women. It was more a matter of ease.
"Number thirteen please, brown rice. Number three to start. And some tea as well. Bodie?"
"Ah," I looked down and decided quickly, "Number eight, white rice."
"Tea for you?" The waiter asked, and I nodded, turning my attention back to Ray as someone poured us water and the waiter returned with the teapot and two small cups.
Ray was easy to be with. We could talk or not, without pressure.
"Girl in the new building." Ray said, setting his cup down and picking at the starter he'd ordered, some sort of spring rolls, one of them now cut up into thin slices.
"What floor?" He laughed. "What kind of question is that?"
"Fine, then." I frowned, pulling the plate from him and taking the second spring roll before he'd had the chance to dissect it as well. "How's she stack up?"
"You might ask what line she's in."
"I might," I agreed, deciding the spring rolls, crispy and light, were promising well for the rest of the meal.
"She's in publishing."
I must've pulled a face, because he added quickly, "Nothing wrong with publishing, Bodie. 's not as if the field were cursed with bloodless red-heads or anything."
"No. It's not. But if there's one there..." I left off, knowing he'd get the point.
"Yeah, yeah. So I'm not looking for marriage anymore. She's nice."
"Nice? Why aren't you out with her then?" It slipped out before I'd thought about it, and I heard the irritation in my voice, as did he.
He raised an eyebrow, taking a delicate sip of his tea and holding the cup in the air for a second before taking another. "Didn't ask her, did I?"