"Evening, Gabe." Mrs Butterworth, the owner and head chef of Butterworth's Diner, smiled at Gabe as he came through the door that evening.
"Hi, Daisy. Bit quiet tonight." He said, eyeing the mostly empty booths. Only one man was sat beside the window in the corner, staring morosely at the bacon and double cheeseburger in front of him. Gabe settled himself at the long, marble, clinically clean counter. Daisy Butterworth was a kind and happy person, fastidious about cleanliness and hygiene. Although she disagreed with Gabe's 'profession', she was always ready to help him if he asked. Not that he ever really asked.
"How's the family?" She asked as she set a strong black coffee in front of him. Gabe shrugged, and sipped the coffee.
"Phoebe and the twins are fine. Getting on well in school."
"And Jordan?" She grinned. "Still trouble?"
"Always trouble." Gabe said, rolling his eyes. "He's decided he wants to be a mechanic."
"God only knows." Gabe sighed. "We had an argument over it tonight."
"You're too easy on that boy." Daisy said. "If he knew what you did for them every night-"
"He can't know!" Gabe said sharply. "None of them can ever know." He calmed himself, before he sighed again. "Sorry." He said quietly. Daisy squeezed Gabe's hand and smiled at him.
"You know… you could come and work here. If you ever wanted to get out of…"
"'It'" Gabe smiled. 'It' was what Daisy always called his work. "Thanks for the offer, Daisy, but… unless you're willing to pay me fifty quid for quarter of an hour, I'm better off where I am."
"Financially." Daisy said. "But it's taking its toll on you, Gabriel. I can see it in your eyes, sometimes."
"If I could, I'd come and work here in a moment." Gabe told her. "But I can't. I need the money 'it' provides. Jordan's having his growth spurts, and he always needs new clothes. Phoebe needs money for a school trip in December, I have Liam and Rose's school bills to pay." Gabe shrugged helplessly. "Speaking of bills to pay, I need to get to work." He gave her a wan smile and headed for the door. As was his nightly tradition, Gabe pulled off his long black trench coat and hung it up beside the door.
"I'll collect it before I go home." He said to Daisy, as he always did. She liked to know he was okay after a night's work, so he remembered to collect his coat every night to show her he was fine. He stepped out of the warm diner and headed down the road, towards his usual alley, a few streets away. He shivered as the cool evening air flooded through his red mesh tank top. His bare midriff goose-bumped almost immediately. His denim shorts, cut off just below the line of his buttocks, gave him no warmth. As he walked, Gabe fastened the studded leather choker he'd taken from his coat pocket around his slim neck, and secured two leather wrist cuffs at the base of his hands.
When he reached his alley, one of his more regular customers was already waiting for him.
"Didn't think you were coming." The man said coolly.
"I always come." Gabe replied.
"Too right." Gabe looked at the regular for a moment, before he smirked, and led the way into the alley. The client followed him closely.
"Hang on." Gabe said firmly. "Payment up-front. You know that." Rolling his eyes, the regular thrust fifty pounds into Gabe's waiting hand. Gabe tucked the money carefully into a leather band wound around his chest and began to unbutton his shorts.
"You okay, Gabe?" Daisy asked him when he went back into the diner in the early hours of the morning.
"Not bad." Gabe buttoned his trench coat to his throat and settled on a stool at the end of the dining bar with a slight wince. He pulled the cash he'd earned from the leather band that kept it safe, and counted it quickly. He made a disgusted noise. "Eight five quid." He growled. "Pathetic." Daisy smiled at his angry tone.
"Coffee and a cake?" She asked him gently. He shook his head.
"Hot chocolate, please. I'm exhausted." Gabe rested his head in his hands until his drink arrived. "You didn't need to wait, you know." He told her when she set a mug of hot chocolate and cream in front of him. "It's an hour past your closing time."
"I only live upstairs, Gabriel. It's not exactly a long commute to my bed every night. And you know I like to know you're alright." He drank his chocolate in almost a single gulp and smiled at her.
"I'm fine, Daisy. Get to bed." He kissed her cheek and slipped out into the night.