by s.a.

He didn't know why he hung around the old man. Maybe it was some vague sense he could learn something, something between all the layers of bullshit the guy threw at him.

He certainly didn't expect this--being felt up by a dirty old fairy, wearing a gas mask for chrissake. He didn't expect rage, and that crazed, desperate pleading for death. He didn't expect to spend the night on an uncomfortable chair, only to wake up the next morning and find Jimmy facedown in a pool.

He didn't expect to care.

But after Jimmy was buried, after all his effects had been put away and Hanna had returned home to her family--when the house was quiet and the lawn wasn't cared for anymore--that's when Jimmy's voice started to ring in his head.

"What steely muscles, Clayton."

"What a solid brute you are."

"I even touched your prick."

"What will you do to get yourself back?"

He paced in his trailer: back and forth, back and forth. At times he'd poke his head out the window, looking at the sea, a cigarette clamped tightly in his mouth, smoke escaping through his nose. After days of doing this, ignoring the knocks from the people who called themselves his friends and the odd looks he got from the neighbors, he put on his last clean shirt and a pair of slightly wrinkled khakis, shoved his hands in his pockets, and stomped outside.

He didn't bother to take his truck, choosing instead to walk the distance to town. Once a certain point was passed, the mass of suburbia faded and the signs of the city were seen. He knew where he was going, though he'd never admit it to anyone.

He got to the edge of the block, and saw the flickering neon light. He flinched at first, watching the laughing couples enter with their hands all over each other. He scrubbed his face, heard the echo of Jimmy's mocking laughter in his ears, and determinedly made his way to the door.

He kept his eyes down, nodding to the guy standing by the door. He had the uncomfortable idea that the guy was looking him over, but he pulled his shoulders back and entered the bar. It was loud, and teeming with people; still, he pushed through the throng and grabbed a stool at the end of the wooden bar.

He ordered whisky with a beer chaser and stared intently at the wall in front of him--until the bartender put his drinks in front of him and waved two fingers in front of his eyes to get his attention. He looked up, swiping his liquor in the process, and met a pair of amused blue eyes.

"Whatcha here for?" the guy asked him, cocking his head to the side.

He wasn't sure what to say, so he threw back his shot and shrugged.

The guy took his glass, refilled it, and set it back down. "Okay then," he said, "Well. If you're going to be Mr. Strong and Silent, I'd suggest at least turning around. It's more interesting than the wall."

He looked at the guy as he gulped down his drink, nodded, and grabbed his beer bottle before swiveling on his seat. The first thing that caught his eye was two young men laughing loudly, banging their hands on the table and letting their heads fall back. His sight shifted and caught another couple in the far corner, their heads close together in conversation--or so he thought, till the older man's head dipped and caught the other's lips in a soft kiss.

He felt his insides twist, and forced his gaze halfway across the room where they landed on the dance floor, to see couples swaying together to the low music, hands falling everywhere. His eyes started to swim, and even though he wanted to he couldn't look away. He felt sweat breaking out on the back of his neck, and he nervously swallowed down more beer before forcing himself to turn back to the far less confusing wall.

He didn't know why he'd come.

But he returned every night for two weeks.

By that time the bartender knew his name, knew his drink, and knew better than to try and elicit any words from him. The other people gave him curious looks from time to time, but he tried to ignore them and soon was able to pick out every panel in the facing wall.

A brave soul tapped him on the shoulder one evening; his eyebrow arched a little, but his stare never wavered from the wall in front of him. After a minute, the guy took the hint and left with a very audible sigh.

He saw the bartender's grin from the corner of his eye, and buried his nose back in his drink.

It became routine. Except, one night he called his mother; she was complaining about everything, not mentioning his father or sister, and he felt the dimes jangling in his pocket, but didn't lift any of them out. After he hung up, mumbling his goodbyes, he trudged out of the phone booth and went to the bar. This time he didn't stop at two whiskeys and a beer.

When the place closed, he was still slumped over the bar, his head pillowed on his hands. He felt someone picking him up, taking him somewhere, but he didn't really protest. He heard a grunt through his fuzzy mind, and someone saying, "C'mon buddy, I'll drive you home." He gave a loose nod that ended up with his head on someone's shoulder, and he wobbled his way out before he was put into a car. He rested his forehead against the cool glass of the window, and when he made his head turn he saw a blurry figure giving him a quirky smile.

It was the bartender.

"C'mon, Clay," the guy said. "Where d'you live? I'll run you home."

He couldn't really answer, just sort of muttered, "No. Don' wanna g'home." The guy sighed, leaned back in his seat, and said, "So where do you wanna go?" He shrugged and said back, "Don' care. 'nywhere."

The bartender grinned, chuckled a bit. "Okay, buddy. Anywhere but home." He felt the car starting up and before he knew it the guy was pulling him out of the car and dragging him up some stairs to a small apartment. He kind of moved his head to a more comfortable position on the guy's shoulder as the locks were turned, and a moment later he was poured onto a lumpy couch. He rolled over, shoved his face into a pillow, felt a blanket being pulled over him and his shoes being pulled off. He grunted his thanks, and heard a quiet laugh in return.

Then he realized that he'd been calling the guy "the guy" all this time, and turned over a bit to ask over his shoulder, "Whas yer name?"

The back turned, gave him that same smile, and said, "Brian."

"Kay," he said before falling asleep.

Morning came all too soon, and he groaned when he moved. His head was pounding in time to "Semper Fi." Before he could open his eyes all the way, a glass of water was shoved into his hand and he gulped it down quickly; when he finished that, another glass full of orange juice replaced it.

He rubbed his eyes blearily, opened them to reveal a concerned, though smiling face staring at him. "How do you feel?" Brian asked.

"Like I've been hit by a truck," he replied with a small moan of pain.

"No surprise, with the way you were drinking last night. You really packed that whiskey away. Tried to give you some water, so you wouldn't feel it so bad in the morning, but you pushed it away."

Somehow he managed a weak smile. "Yeah, well. I'm not always the sharpest guy around."

Brain shrugged. "We all have those days. Breakfast?"

"Yeah. That'd be great." He gratefully accepted the arm that helped him up and padded after Brian to the small kitchen. There were eggs and toast waiting on the table, and they ate in silence for a while before he said around a mouthful of food, "Thanks for helping me."

Brian swallowed before replying. "Not a problem. Feel better?"

He nodded. "Yeah." He hesitated, than said, "So, uh, why did you? Help me?"

Brian leaned back in his chair, scratched his stomach. "Because you were nearly passed out and I've seen you walk home before. Too long of a way; I figured you'd get yourself hurt."

"You watch me walk home?"

"Well, I've seen the way you go. And I know you're not from around here."

"Oh." He pushed around the eggs on his plate for a few minutes.

Brian shifted, sipped his coffee. He caught the glance Brian gave him over the mug and quickly turned his attention back to his plate.

"My turn to ask a question," Brian asked abruptly. He looked up, met his gaze. "Okay."

"Why've you been hanging around the bar, if you barely move an inch from your seat? There's a hundred other bars in this city you could go to. Why mine?"

He didn't really know how to answer that, so he finished his food and his coffee, took his plate to the sink, and rested his arms on the tile, staring out the window. "I don't know," he said to the pair of eyes that watched as he moved. "I just ... had to come. Had to see. Because--" he cut himself off.

He heard stirring behind him, and then there was a warm hand on his back. "It's okay, Clay," Brian said softly. "It's okay."

He turned a little bit, met concerned blue eyes, and leaned forward a little bit. Just barely touching, a mimic of the kiss he had seen weeks ago. He felt Brian stiffen, just a little, before pressing forward. The kiss moved from tentative to searching, and he lifted his hand to place it carefully on Brian's shoulder. His body leaned in, then he felt the scratch of cloth meeting cloth and his heart began to race.

Brian's hand felt heavy on his waist, and he felt heat creeping closer to him. He caught his breath when their lips parted, and Brian buried his face in the crook of his neck. His eyes strayed to the ceiling, and his hands moved shakily over Brian's arms, coming to rest on undershirt-covered shoulders. His thumbs slipped inside, lifting the fabric and lightly rubbing the skin underneath. He felt Brian shiver beneath him, and move closer, and he resisted the urge to become rigid. Instead he moved his hand to cup Brian's face, and brought his lips back to a waiting mouth.

They shuffled around there, next to the sink, for what seemed like forever; until Brian finally stepped back, giving him a flushed grin with swollen lips. He didn't realize he'd held his breath till his lungs nearly burst and he gasped for air. Brian caught his bowed head in his hands, lifted it to meet his gaze. "Follow me?" he said with a smile that could only be interpreted one way.

He nodded, unable to say anything, unable to refuse. He trailed Brian a few short feet to the sparse bedroom, and his chest caught when he saw the unmade bed. Brian turned and took his hand, pulled him to the dark blue sheets, sitting him down and dipping his head to place a gentle kiss on his forehead.

He let out a shuddering breath, resting his cheek against Brian's chest. He listened to him breathe, in and out; heard the thrum of his heartbeat. It comforted him, so when he looked up to meet a heated stare, he was almost ready to meet the lips and body that pushed him backward, rucking up his shirt and pulling it over his head. He fumbled with Brian's shirt, succeeding in moving it out of the way enough for his fingers to scrabble against the length of his torso, for his thumb to swish across his navel and his hand to splay against the dichotomy of skin and jeans.

Brian's hands smoothed up the length of his sides, skidding down his arms, then resting on his waist. Their eyes caught, and permission was asked for -- with a short nod, it was granted, and the soft hiss of a zipper being released met his ears. His jeans were slid down his legs, taking his boxers with him. He tried not to shake as he undid Brian's jeans, letting them slip off as Brian moved over him.

His eyes fluttered closed with the first brush of Brian's hand on his cock. He grasped for purchase on a nearby shoulder, hauling him up the length of his body to meet eager lips. Their cocks whispered against each other, and he strangled a moan as the friction increased. His body jerked up against fevered heat, hair scraping and fingers interlocking as they moved in erratic rhythm, wrinkling the sheets.

Brian's hand dropped downwards to grasp his cock, moving back and forth quickly and surely. He had the errant thought that he should reciprocate, but instead his arms flailed outwards and grasped the edges of the bed tightly. He stopped thinking when Brian laid his mouth against his and his hand moved faster. He bucked, once, twice--and then he bent upwards like a bow with its string well plucked.

He fell back with a thunk, panting heavily, running his hand through his hair. His eyes opened long enough to see the oddly beautiful sight of Brian straining against his own hand, neck stretched and mouth open. He pulled that neck to his lips, licking, then sucking, then biting softly. Brian made a noise he didn't know how to describe, then collapsed on top of him. After a moment, they wriggled around till they spooned, and Brian petted his head a bit before they fell into an exhausted doze.

When he woke up, Brian was looking at him expectantly. He tried for a smile, but he succeeded only halfway. He yawned a bit, stretched, climbed out of the bed and reached out for his clothes when he felt a hand on his arm stilling him. He looked back, trying not to recognize the questions in Brian's eyes. He attempted the smile again, getting only so far as a shaky upturn of his mouth, before putting his underwear and pants on, then moving to the foot of the bed.

He took Brian's hand, pulled it to his lips, kissed his palm softly. "Thank you," he said hoarsely, moving backwards out the door. Brian sort of nodded, watching him leave.

He did not think that mocking voice would return.


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