“I really ought to be reconsidering my life choices up to this point.” He spoke softly, shuffling along the brick wall with clumsy determination that he just ended up making more noise than he had initially intended.

There was something to be said about how obs- incredibly determined he had been throughout the whole week and somewhat, he owed this all to the man he was currently following. It had been a while since Stephen had been stimulated in this way and it wasn’t due to some sort of attraction to the man but merely his prowess.

No one had ever been on the same level and the one fleeting meeting that they had had ended up like sand; slipping through your fingers before you can even comprehend it. Stephen knew it was most likely one-sided and Scarlet had continuously reminded him that it would end up with him feeling incredibly frustrated and alone. She was right but it didn’t mean that he couldn’t try.

…Which led him to be in this current situation. In all honesty, Stephen merely wanted to be friends with this man and surely that isn’t a crime. Except, his sister had reminded him that stalking (her words, not his) was pretty much a crime. He liked to rephrase it as coincidence that he had always managed to locate the exact location which Neal would be at any given time and he would like to put the record straight that Neal had asked Stephen whether he could send his material to his address, therefore meaning that Neal knows where Stephen lives and so, he isn’t the creepy one, Neal is. Just to put the record straight.

“Stephen?” The voice was unmistakable and Stephen cursed under his breath. Well…He’s been found, not like he can just blatantly ignore the man considering how he looked. Wearing a lumpy jumper and unfitted trousers along with his creepy position by the wall, he was sure to be recognised by anyone, and it wasn’t because he was usually seen following prospective business partners, however Neal is different. This man is not someone Stephen is hunting for business credentials but merely because he can see himself being friends with this man. He can see himself playing chess with this man, he can see himself working with this man to make the world a better place, so no, this was a completely different venture. He admired him.

“…Yes?” He patted himself down, his jumper rubbing so much against the brick wall that it left fluff on it. He turned slowly, an exaggerated smile placed on his lips to soften any blows that may be coming his way, but he probably looked even more crazed with his fake smile than without so he stopped smiling immediately, his lips forming a firm tight line on his face.

“What are you doing?” It was an innocent and decent question to ask but Stephen had no idea of answering it in a way which would allow him to sound somewhat normal. “Yes, well I was following you home because I wanted to befriend your kind soul.” Or better yet. “I was checking out the architecture of the buildings in this neighbourhood. Very…modern, don’t you think? Hm? You live around here? Why, I wouldn’t know about that. What are the coincidences that this would happen?” No, nothing like that will ever happen, simply because Stephen is a terrible liar and anyone with a brain is sure to realise how creepy Stephen’s actions were, even though he completely denied any accusations. It was at times like these that he wished he had his sister’s compulsive lying, which he had found to be an incredible skill which often led them out of difficult situations much like the one he was in now…

“Oh, I was just waiting for a friend…” Neal offered a polite smile in return before nodding, his leave imminent.

“Well, then I should get going.” Desperate to not let this opportunity be wasted and to avoid being lectured by his sister for that very issue, he stuck out a hand, grabbing at the other’s sleeve.

“Could I at least get your number? I forgot to ask the first time we met.” My sister would be proud, he thought and much to his pleasure, the other man offered his phone in response.

And thus, began their friendship. Neal left promptly after but not before giving Stephen one of his smiles which he partly believed to be a slight habit, though a charming one. Maybe his plan wasn’t flawed after all.


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