Tonight, for my last training shift, I was not under the watchful eye of Wes, but rather the less-watchful eye of Shawn Matheson, a friend of Seb's, actually, and the reason why I have the job here. He was half-watching over my shoulder as I mixed together some crazy fancy martini when Rylan walked up, slapping his hands loudly on the bar. If this was two nights ago, I surely would've dropped a glass at that moment. Thankfully, I didn't.
"Have a drink with me after work, Gabe," Rylan had said. "We can eat too; I don't know how much of the food you've tried here, but it's good. You'll like it."
With words like that, how could I refuse, and that's how I landed in a booth with Rylan and Jude at nine-thirty. Thank Christ for opening shifts where I'm not working until past midnight. Last night, of course, was a closing one, and there will be more of those, but as for tonight, thank Christ.
Jude looks worse for wear than I've previously seen him, a fact that I can't help but tease him about as he did to me two days ago, on Sunday, the prick. "Have fun last night, Jude?" I ask wickedly.
He glares at me, but it's not too intimidating. There's no chance of a threat of physical harm, because that would involve moving, and I'm pretty sure Jude wants to do as little of that as possible.
"Yeah. It was just peachy, thanks," he say sarcastically. "Where the fuck did you take off to the other night?"
I shrug. "I went home pretty early, I guess. Too drunk the last two nights to really be up for much that night."
Jude snorts. "Oh, I don't doubt you went home. I just doubt it was because you didn't want to get drunk. Or does getting drunk mean you can't get it up?"
Normally, I'd frown at him, but I'm almost certain that I can out-awkward Jude in this conversation, so instead of frowning, I lean forward, propping my chin up with my hands. "Well, not necessarily, no. It depends on whom I'm trying to get it up for, and how talented his hands are," I say thoughtfully. "I probably could've gotten it up drunk the other night, all things considered." I smile sweetly at Jude. If I expected him to blanch at this, I'm plenty disappointed as he doesn't look at all perturbed by my words.
"Well, aren't you talented?" he asks rhetorically. "It's apparently a talent to have enough common sense to keep your dick in your pants when you drag people to a gay bar with you. You're not talented in that regard," he tells me, as if I couldn't guess.
I shrug unapologetically. "You got your free drinks and a lack of bitchy girls, didn't you?"
"Yeah, and you got laid. Fair exchange."
"Did you really sleep with that guy, Gabe?" Rylan asks, looking troubled. Now is probably not the time to wonder if I ever came out to Rylan, because this would be a hell of a way to come out. I'm not worried about Jude, however, as apparently no coming out is needed.
I nod, frowning slightly now. "Uh, yeah. I'm not sure if I mentioned it before, but I'm gay, actually."
Rylan waves this off. "Yeah, I figured, but that guy, I called my friend Julian on Sunday, Julian Case?" I nod, urging him to continue. "Anyway, I was right, he does know that guy, Indra. He says Indra has kind of a crazy ex." My, how the truth spreads quickly in this town.
"Yep, I know. His ex and I have an . . . understanding." Is that the politically correct way to say he wants to ruin my life, and so I'm going to ruin his?
"Well, be careful with him, will ya? He slept with some guy Julian was seeing after Indra dumped him, and that's just because Julian's a friend of Indra's. I can't see him being much more pleasant to Indra's lovers."
Jude snorts again. I'm already finding out that he does this a lot. "Picked a winner there, didn't you, Gabe?"
I ignore him, more focused on the news that Luke is the type to carry out his threats of sleeping with people I care about and whatnot, and that he's played this sort of game before. Well, I guess this is the first time he'll be playing it against someone who will actually fight back.
"Gabe?" Rylan says, and it's a bit of a worried smile on his face. "Julian insists that his boyfriend's sure you can take care of yourself, but I just thought you should know that if this Luke guy finds out about you sleeping with Indra, he probably won't be too happy."
I laugh. "Luke and Indra broke up nearly a year ago, last spring, I think. He's got to get over it."
Rylan shrugs. "Well, apparently he's not."
That's obviously an understatement. "Thanks, Rylan, but it's fine. Really. Seb, that's Julian's boyfriend, he's right, I can take care of myself. As I said, Luke and I have somewhat of an understanding."
"What, you suck his cock, he leaves you alone?" That crudeness could only come from Jude.
I grimace. "More like he tries to fuck with me, I'll give it right back to him. And that is not a sexual innuendo, Jude," I add as Jude opens his mouth, closing it again with only a grin. "Luke and I don't exactly get along."
Jude smirks at me, but doesn't say anything, raising an eyebrow that makes me want to know what the hell's running through that head of his. Rylan looks even more troubled. "Look, Gabe," he begins. "I know I've only known you for a couple of days, so I'm probably coming across way too interested in this, but Julian fucking hates this Luke guy. As in, he abhors him, and Julian might hold petty grudges, but he doesn't outright hate people for no reason. If this Luke guy already dislikes you, then don't add fuel to the fire by sleeping with his ex."
"That's exactly what he wants to do though, isn't it, Gabe?" Jude says, smirking at me. It's a friendly, knowing smirk if there ever was one, although I realize that smirks can't often be friendly. From Jude, though, it's a surprising sign of camaraderie.
I nod slowly, eyes on Jude as I wonder how, exactly, he figured that out so quickly. "Basically," I confirm.
Rylan groans, head in his hands. "Why, God, why? I ask for sane friends, and you only reveal their inner insanity when I think them to not be crazy. It's like some cosmic joke."
Jude fixes him with a rather withering look. "Your first mistake is believing in God."
Rylan groans again, louder this time. "Oh, let's not get into some religious discussion tonight, shall we? And besides, it was a figure of speech."
Jude shrugs. "I'm just sayin'."
Rylan gives his attention to me again. "You want to provoke this psycho guy," he states disbelievingly.
Rylan looks at me as if I suddenly sprouted antlers or something equally surprising. "Why?"
I sigh, taking a hearty gulp from the pint in front of me. "Short story? Luke tried to sleep with me, I shot him down, and now he wants to fuck up my life on 'principle.' His master plan to do this is to sleep with guys I'm friendly with."
Jude is full-out grinning now, but doesn't say anything, not even when I fix him with a quizzical look. I carry on, only slightly perturbed by Jude's sudden silence. "Naturally, I'd rather my life not be fucked with, and my friends not be used, so I'm not going to sit back and take that. And so I am also trying to actively ruin his life, in a way. You might call it a war of sorts."
"An epic war," Jude adds.
Rylan sighs deeply. "Well, it's certainly not a war of wits."
"Unless you count fuckwits," Jude says cheerfully. He glances at me. "That's a joke. Rylan may not be able to appreciate the brilliance of it, but I can."
"Jude just likes fucking with people," Rylan says, which seems a more likely explanation.
Jude doesn't deny this. "This guy, Luke or whatever, does he regularly go to that fag bar?"
"The Styx?" I ask.
Jude's withering look turns on me now. "What do you think?"
I run a hand through my thankfully much shorter hair. "Yeah, I think he does. I was across an ocean for a few months, and not really keeping up with people's comings and goings there, but from what I gather, he's turned into a regular."
"So he might be there tonight?" Jude presses.
I shrug. "Sure, I guess."
He rubs his hands together, an odd mix between evil mastermind and mischievous child. "Rylan, we're going out tonight," he announces.
Rylan raises an eyebrow. "You?" he asks mildly, which is a fair question, given how hungover Jude was earlier in the night. He may not be showing it anymore, obsessed as he is with causing someone else pain, but I'm sure he's feeling pretty painful in there, probably in the spot where his heart would be. If he had one.
Jude gives him an annoyed look. "Yes, me."
"You sure about that, buddy? You weren't doing so hot earlier."
"Fuck off, I can handle my liquor," he says, grabbing Rylan's own pint, and taking a swig as if to prove his point.
"More like evil just overpowers every other human emotion," Rylan says dryly to me. That is an assessment I'd probably have to agree with.
"Let me get this straight," I begin. I point at Jude quickly, who does indeed have an especially evil look on his face. "No jokes!" He holds his hands up in supposed innocence but since I said the word "straight," I've no such illusions about his innocence. "Jude wants to go to The Styx because he likes the idea of me fucking with someone he never even knew existed until ten minutes ago."
"Fucking with, yes, fucking, no," is Jude's contribution.
He makes a face at me. "You wish."
I shrug. "Not really. But that's actually what you want to do. Go to a gay bar in hopes that this guy, this fucking psycho, as Rylan accurately puts it, is there so I can, what, attempt to make him jealous by hitting on you?"
Jude scowls. "Hopefully not."
He shrugs, but it's Rylan who answers for him. "Jude will do anything in the name of evil. He likes being an asshole."
"That's about it," Jude agrees, seemingly without qualms with this assessment. "If it ruins somebody's life just a little bit, then why wouldn't I?"
"That would just encourage him," Rylan finishes.
"You are really something else," I tell Jude honestly. "I'm not sure that's a compliment."
"I've heard worse," he says.
"I bet you have. I have to warn you, no free tab at the bar tonight."
Jude scoffs. "I'm sure I can convince somebody there to buy me a drink."
Rylan laughs. "You're whoring yourself out for drinks? Okay, well, now I'm coming. Not that way," he adds hastily as Jude grins his Cheshire cat grin.
"You guys realize I don't have a grand master plan to mess with Luke tonight, right? Probably nothing exciting will happen even if he's there."
Jude's eyes hold a glimmer that doesn't quite comfort me. "Oh, we'll make sure something happens."
"I see you've been included in the 'we' now, Rylan."
Rylan shrugs, an easy grin on his face, which is a change from the tense, worried Rylan I sat down with. "Hey, I don't know how well you can handle yourself, but I know Jude, and he can really be an asshole when he puts his mind to it."
"Only when he puts his mind to it?" I say absent-mindedly as Jude flips me off. My mind is whirling. Here I am on the pettiest crusade of my young life, and Jude the asshole is willingly joining forces with me, and dragging Rylan along with him. Color that unexpected.
Rylan grins at this. "Anyway, I don't think this Luke guy will know what hit him."
"Or hit on him," Jude adds.
I stare at him incredulously. "You're going to hit on him?"
He shrugs. "Why not string him along? You want to toy with him, you get someone to string him along. Easy."
"Did I mention his usual strategy involves getting guys drunk, and then fucking them? Emphasis on the getting them drunk part."
"So you plan to get people to buy you drinks. And then hit on Luke. Do you see the potential flaw in that situation? Do you think he's the type to care if you're too drunk to get it up?"
Jude looks disgusted at this. "I won't be getting myself in any situation where that would even be an option. I'm not a fucking fag."
"He means no offense, Gabe," Rylan adds, rolling his eyes at Jude, who doesn't look like he cares much about offending people. Par for the course, I suppose.
"None taken," I comment dryly.
Jude looks bored, clearly a practiced expression on his face. "If we're done being politically correct, can we just go already?"
Rylan stands up. "Why not," he says rhetorically. "It'll be an interesting night, at the very least." I laugh at the dry tone in his voice, and he grins at me.
Jude quickly chugs both mine and Rylan's pints before standing up with a lopsided grin. "Rylan's driving," he declares, and begins heading for the door before Rylan can protest this. Rylan only shrugs good-naturedly, and begins to follow Jude.
"Hey," I say, walking next to Rylan. "I get why Jude's doing this, but what about you? How do you go from warning me off this whole thing to becoming a somewhat willing accomplice?"
Rylan shrugs, half-smiling. "He fucked with my friend. I can take some pleasure in vengeance there. Besides, I'm not as overtly evil as Jude, but we all have a sadistic streak, don't we?"
Well, I sure as hell do.
Jude's look is one of utter disgust as we enter The Styx, and I find it hard to believe that he would not only willingly come here again, but actually be the one to suggest it. Jude's sadistic streak must run deep.
I nod towards one of the bars. "I see some guys I know over there."
"Are they guys you're happy to know?" Jude wants to know. At my nod, he doesn't let me talk, but instead continues coolly. "We want to find the opposite. Next," he says dismissively.
I roll my eyes, beginning to head towards the group of people that I do like. "Good luck finding the guy you've never seen without me to point him out," I call to Jude. "You'll be some guy in a gay bar without a mission. Have fun!"
This does the trick as Jude scurries after me, scowling. Rylan doesn't bother trying to hide his broad grin, and soon we reach my destination. "Hey, everyone," I say in greeting.
Various people call back their own greetings, and I shove my hands into my pockets, standing between a blond guy named Tristan, and Sam, a guy I know to be a friend of Julian's, who, for some unfathomable reason, is wearing brightly colored sunglasses inside the dark-lit club. I have no clue. From the way Rylan smiles warmly at Sam, I can tell they've met before, so maybe he'd be able to explain the sunglasses mystery to me.
"What's up, Gabe?" Tristan asks me, nodding a greeting to Rylan and Jude. Jude's upper lip is still curled. Isn't he just the picture of friendliness?
"Nothing much, just coming out after work. No, Jude," I add quickly, not at all surprised to see that Jude is now grinning that familiar grin.
"You just set yourself up," he mutters. He straightens suddenly, looking Tristan right in the eye. "Is Luke here?" he asks.
Tristan only looks confused, but Sam looks at Jude with surprise. "Luke Young?" he asks.
Jude huffs. "Fuck if I know."
"Yes, Luke Young," I say, stepping in. "D'you know if he's here, Sam?"
"If he is, he's probably over by the bar that Robbie works. God knows I'll be staying away from there tonight." The revelation of Luke having a history with Julian makes Sam's disdain all the more understandable.
"So to the bar Robbie works we go," Jude declares, looking like he's about to set out despite having no idea who Robbie is. Robbie, for clarity's sake, is the bleach blond bartender who aided Luke in getting me drunk a few nights ago. Robbie is obviously not in my good books right now.
Jude positively glowers at me when he sees my hesitation. "Pussy," is his brilliant analyzation of the situation. He turns to Sam. "What does this Luke character look like, anyway?"
Sam looks uncomfortable but shrugs. "Dirty blond hair, blue eyes, usually wearing tight pants."
"Jeans," I put in. "From what I've seen. Too much gel in the hair."
Jude snorts. "That could describe every other homo here. Don't worry, I'll use my detective skills to figure it out," he says sarcastically. "You just stay here, and I'll do your dirty work for you, Gabe."
"The difference is, you take pleasure in this. And not a perverse pleasure either," I point out.
Jude laughs. "Well, sure. Now, which bar does Robbie work?"
I point across the room. "Go straight across. You can't miss it."
"I'm doing you a favor, Gabe!" he calls to me as he walks away.
"I never asked for it!" I yell back.
Jude flips me off again. "But I'm still doing it!"
I laugh, turning back to the others. "Drinks?" I suggest. Rylan nods enthusiastically.
"You know I will," he says.
"Tristan, Sam, you guys good?" I ask.
Tristan nods, setting his empty glass down on the counter a few feet away. "I'm going to dance, I think. Sam, you coming?"
Sam doesn't say anything, just walks past Tristan to the dance floor. With anyone else, it wouldn't surprise me to see him trip while wearing those sunglasses, but with Sam, it somehow seems to fit. Tristan grins a goodbye at me, following Sam, and leaving Rylan and I with some people I know by sight and some I don't know at all.
Rylan leans back against the bar. "So," he says conversationally to the guy standing beside him. This one looks vaguely familiar, but it's entirely possible I've never seen him before in my life. That wouldn't surprise me either.
"Wanna get me a drink? I had a horrible night last night, and could use a drink."
The guy looks at him, apparently a bit intrigued, and waves a hand at the bartender. "How horrible?" What kind of person asks that to someone they don't know? Suddenly, I'm quite content with not knowing this guy.
Rylan adopts a low, hushed tone. "Well, I ended up going home with this guy, Luke Young," he begins, and the guy laughs.
"Yeah, you and everyone else."
Rylan does a good impression of an embarrassed smile. "Yeah, well, you'd think that someone like that would have good equipment, you know what I'm saying?"
The guy looks interested now. "Yeah?" he eggs Rylan on.
Rylan nods enthusiastically. "Yeah. Not impressed." His voice goes even lower, and he says words I can barely make out, let alone believe. "Small cock."
"Really?" the guy asks, his eyes not leaving Rylan.
"Oh, yeah. Honestly, don't know how he can pull anyone. He doesn't have much to pull on, if you get what I'm saying."
The guy nudges the person next to him. "Hey, Alex, this guy says Luke Young's got a small cock."
Rylan winks at me before nodding vehemently as two pairs of eyes land on him. "Tiniest I've ever seen by far."
With Rylan causing so much trouble, I figured Jude would be flat-out wreaking havoc by this point. I didn't figure, however, that he would find me again no more than fifteen minutes after I left Rylan's side.
He looks disgusted as he appears by my side, seemingly out of nowhere. From the dark glares and scowls he's throwing to his side, I figure it's safe to assume that he came from, where else, the bar that Robbie usually works.
"Not here?" I ask Jude, who turns back to me, his eyebrows furrowed together.
"Luke. Is he not here?"
The scowl returns. "No, he's here." As a smile slowly takes over his lips, I realize that the scowl doesn't necessarily signal a bad mood, but rather is just a default expression for Jude. That's really the only explanation for its frequent appearance.
"So I take it you met him, then."
He grabs my arm, nodding. "Mm-hmm. C'mon, onto the dance floor with you," he says gruffly, pulling me into the middle of a bunch of dancing bodies.
I hold back a laugh. "He's watching right now, isn't he?"
"'Course he is. I'm not going to fucking kiss you or anything, don't worry." He studies me for a second before shaking his head. "Well, you wouldn't worry."
I ignore this, instead opting for my own query. "What happened?"
Jude shrugs, moving us further into the depths of the dance floor, and away from the bar where I assume Luke is. "I got over there, kept my eyes open, and some guy offered to buy me a drink. Don't think he expected me to finish it so quickly." He snorts. Knowing Jude as I have for a grand total of five days, I can safely say that I would've expected him to finish it "so quickly."
"He bought me another one, and that's all I really needed him for, so I took the drink, and told him to fuck off." Not surprising. "He said his name was Luke, and then I decided to play nice."
"How many more drinks did he buy you?" I interrupt. Jude wasn't gone for more than twenty, twenty-five minutes max, which would be at about the two drink limit for anyone else.
Jude looks rather pleased with himself. "Four."
I groan as he laughs. "Oh, you and Rylan will keep me from dying from alcohol poisoning, I'm sure. If I've made it twenty-three years, I'm sure I can handle another night of this fuckery."
"I rue the day your liver finally decides it's had enough," I tell him.
"You wanna hear the rest of the story or not?" he snaps at me, and I have to bite my lip to keep myself from laughing.
"Go on," I urge.
He rolls his eyes, but continues. "I was perfectly behaved, and you could just see his tongue wagging as he watched how much I drank because that's enough to knock out an elephant. On drink number five, he couldn't take it anymore, and asked me to come home. I told the bartender to get me another drink, and headed off to you, where you had appeared like an angel from heaven. Case closed," he says decisively. He smirks at me. "Don't get too excited that it looks like we're together now."
"Don't worry, I'm not," I say dryly. Jude's smirk only grows.
"Then you're an insult to gay men everywhere." He glances over his shoulder. "Luke can't see us anymore, where's Rylan?"
I jerk my head towards the bar where we first started out the night. "Still over there, last I saw. He was telling people that Luke has a small dick, so I can only imagine what he's moved on to saying now."
Jude laughs appreciatively. "I knew he had it in him," he says fondly before the familiar devilish glint comes into his eyes. "Not that way, although I do have to question where he got his information."
I groan. "I'm pretty sure he's just making it up."
"What, you don't know from experience?"
"I slept with Luke's ex, not with Luke himself, remember?"
Jude moves in closer, his voice lower now. "Is that your master plan, Gabe? Sleep with his ex? Because, frankly, I think it'd be a lot better if you were to date his ex. If I was the jealous type," and it's not a surprise that he's not, "that would drive me crazy."
"Great minds think alike," I mumble, turning away from Jude. "I've thought of that, Jude."
Jude looks pleased with himself. "And?" he demands impatiently.
"Indra's an innocent. I'm not sure I can use him to that extent, to be honest."
A snort from Jude. "What a great time to grow morales!" he says sarcastically.
"I'm pretty sure you can't 'grow' morales, Jude."
He sneers at me. "I'm pretty sure you should grow some balls, and use the best weapon you've got against this guy. Otherwise, it's not much of a war you're waging, is it? And if you're oh-so torn up about using your fuck buddy, then just tell him, 'Hey, how about we fake-date for a while to get to your ex, whom I also hate? And by the by, we can have sex while we fake-date.' Ever think of that sort of proposition?"
I consider this. "I'm not so sure Indra's the type to get involved with that business. I think he might deem it a bit immature for his liking."
"Well then, you show him immature, and use him like I know you want to. Come on, you were already thinking it," he presses. "Obviously."
"We'll see," is all I'll say on the subject.
"Yeah, we'll see," Jude mutters, beginning to walk in the direction of where we left Rylan. "If you're as into this game as you claim to be, then you'll see there's only one thing for you to do. And your so-called morales won't stand in the way because you've already committed to fucking with this Luke. Let me know when you get down off your high horse, Gabe," he says, making his way to the bar, where he plunks himself down on a bar stool, and barks out a drink order. He gives a curt nod to Rylan, who glances at him with a grin, and then downs the drink.
I can only roll my eyes. I don't think he was kidding when he said that Rylan and I would have to watch him for alcohol poisoning. Before I can move to head over to Jude, a hand grips my arm. I turn, seeing only Indra's dark, dancing eyes.
"Come dance?" He says it like a question, and when he says it like that, how can I resist?
"I almost didn't recognize you with the hair," he says as he guides me to the middle of the dance floor, and puts his arms around me, drawing me close. He smiles softly at me. "It looks good."
"Oh. Thanks. I kind of let it go for a while, and figured I should probably get that taken care of before our date," I say jokingly.
He smiles, but doesn't carry on with this subject. "I didn't know you were coming out tonight," he says instead.
I attempt a half-smile. "I didn't either. I came out with a couple of coworkers. You remember the two guys who came with me from the party the other night?"
Indra nods. "Vaguely."
"We were hanging out after work, and they decided to let me have a say when we finally headed out."
"Ah. Good friends," he says mildly. He looks at me with something like desire in those dark eyes of his. Maybe I'm just projecting my own emotions and wants onto him. Because damn if he doesn't look good. That's not a surprise, just a statement. An obvious, unnecessary statement.
I no longer think I'm just projecting when he leans in, kissing me softly, softer than I would like. Inwardly, I scoff at this, and deepen the kiss, though Indra breaks away before I can get too carried away. His arms stay around my waist though.
"How'd your friends get here?" he asks, the lowness of his voice making me all warm inside. From the reaction of certain below-the-belt parts, I'd say it's not all an inner reaction either.
"One of them drove."
"Do you have to play responsible friend and drive them home?"
I think of Jude, who has already blown the legal limit to hell, and Rylan, who was too busy talking of Luke's lacking endowment to do more than nurse his drink. "No," I say, and I'm rewarded with a sexy smile.
"Good," he says, and this time, he kisses me with the passion he wouldn't let me portray in that first kiss. His tongue tangles with mine, and he whips it across my lips, drawing a slight moan from me, which only encourages him. Encourages him to move his lips to my neck, sucking on the skin right above my collarbone. My God.
"Indra," I manage to get out. "Maybe we should go."
He laughs, straightening, and then fixing the collar of my shirt. "I'll drive," he says, and even in the darkness, I don't miss the glimmer in his dark eyes.
"Should we perhaps wait until after our date, for propriety's sake? I mean, I know I'm not exactly the dating type, but I've been told that sex usually comes after the date," I say as I pull out the hide-a-bed. Sexy. "Maybe we should wait."
Indra glares at me. "That had better be a joke," he says darkly.
I shrug innocently. "We could just . . . cuddle," I suggest brightly.
I hear his groan. "Gabe," he says, sounding pained. "You're not serious, are you?"
I walk over to him, and if I were to follow basic rules of propriety, I'm sure that I would just kiss him now. But I'm not, and so I don't. Instead, I shimmy my hand into his pants, and grasp him, hearing him gasp, and then groan again.
"Gabe," he says again. His eyes are pleading when he opens them to look at me.
"Please tell me you were joking."
"Nope," I say easily. "Society says we should wait till marriage." A groan. "Luckily, I'm a bit of a social leper, what with the whole homosexual thing."
"And the whole sex before the established date thing?" Indra adds hopefully.
I laugh at how little he knows me. "Obviously," I reply, kissing him. "I'm sure you'll come to know the hornier aspects of my personality pretty well, if you haven't already."
He looks at me, and there's something serious in his eyes. "I could always get to know such aspects better." I was wrong, it's not so serious as it is devilish. Which is much, much better, and so I continue on with my sinful behavior for the night. I'm past feeling remorse for my many, many sins, and instead derive only pleasure from them. From Indra, it can only be pleasure.
"Fuck!" is the not-so-nice wake-up call I get in the morning.
I pry one eye open, already facing the door, and spot my brother and Pete standing in the doorway. Pete looks surprised, but it's already quickly fading into a grin, whereas Michael's shock is not.
"I guess we kind of asked for it with the no knocking thing," Pete says mildly, grinning broadly. He walks in, sits down at the computer desk, and turns the iMac on. "Laptop's still broken. Should have it back this week," he adds off-handedly.
The movement on my other side is a reminder of the other person in bed with me. The other equally naked person in bed with me, I feel I should clarify. Because God knows that Pete doesn't seem to notice this fact. Or the fact that I'm naked, hence the "equal" part of that thought.
"Um, do you mind?" I ask loudly. Michael glances at me, then quickly looks away, blushing madly. Someone has common sense, at least, and I'm glad to see it's the person that I share a gene pool with.
"Nope, not at all," Pete says cheerfully, signing onto his e-mail.
I sigh, pulling up the sheet. We're not exposing anything indecent, in that bare torsos aren't indecent, but I still want to shield Indra as much as possible. Not like Pete would get anything out of looking, and obviously Michael is too embarrassed to even chance a look, but still.
"What, what's going on?" Indra asks me quietly, his voice scratchy with sleep.
"These are two of my roommates. My brother, Michael, and the jackass on the computer is Pete," I explain, performing the most cursory of introductions.
Pete waves over his shoulder. "Hiya. Don't we get to be introduced to your friend, Gabe? This is the friend with benefits, right, or are you really starting to make yourself at home, and bringing home numerous men?"
I scowl at him, an expression that would surely make Jude proud, even though it is lost on Pete's back. "Same guy, Pete."
"Oh." Pete whirls around in his chair to face us, and I sit up, blocking Indra with my body. Pete laughs.
"I really don't want to reveal myself to you, Pete."
"Please don't," is Michael's contribution from the doorway where he's still blushing something crazy.
"Aw, all chivalrous, are you, Gabe?" Pete laughs. I raise an eyebrow at him.
"Just don't want to subject some poor innocent to you," I say pleasantly. This is the second time in the last twenty-four hours that I've referred to Indra as an innocent. The contrast of the situations does not escape me.
"I'm not that scary," Pete protests.
"No, you are," says Michael from the doorway. "Come on, Pete, let them at least get dressed before you terrorize my little brother."
Pete backs away, seemingly reluctantly. "Fine," he says. He pauses, considering something. "We should come up with a signal. We didn't talk about you bringing people home, Gabe, but I think the real pressing matter is a signal. Should we say a sock on the doorknob?"
"Like I'm going take the time to put a sock on the doorknob."
Pete scratches his chin thoughtfully. "No, in the throes of passion, I suppose that's unlikely. Hmm." He shrugs, apparently unable to think of anything else. "Well, we'll discuss that later, I guess. Ta-ta, boys." He wiggles his fingers at us, and follows Michael out the door.
"Close the door!" I holler, and Pete's hand reaches back to oblige. I finally fall back against the mattress.
"Sorry about that," I mutter.
Indra, understandably, still looks a little shell-shocked, but his good manners take over quickly. "It couldn't be helped," he says way too graciously.
"Well, it could be if Pete's younger brother wasn't my best friend. He's put himself into the role of another brother for me, and so when Michael, who was obviously the one with common sense, clams up, Pete takes it upon himself to embarrass me. It's unfortunate that he hasn't realized I don't embarrass that easily." Indra laughs, and I relax.
"I can't say I've ever met someone's roommates in such a manner," Indra admits.
"With any luck, you'll never have to again. I still have a third roommate, but he displays more common sense than either Pete or Michael, so I think you'll be safe there."
Indra smiles. "Good. I much prefer waking up in a more languid fashion after a night like last night."
I grin. "That, I can agree with." I stretch, sitting up once again. "I kind of want to get out of here."
"Understandable," Indra says, and I can hear the smile in his voice.
"How about we have lunch? My treat, to make up for my choice in roommates." Not like it was much of a choice - I mean, live at home with your parents after not living there for four years, or move in with your laid-back brother. Like I said, not really a choice.
Indra stretches, and my eyes rest on his stomach, the muscles being pulled so taut, and more than that, a gorgeous golden brown in the sunlight coming in through the basement window. Jesus fucking Christ. If not for the awkward encounter not five minutes ago, I swear to God I'd ravish him right now. As it is, it takes all my willpower not to.
"I can't say no to that," he says agreeably.
I think of something suddenly, something entirely too logical for my brain which I thought was currently a pile of mush at the glorious sight before me. "Don't you have class?"
He frowns. "Oh. Yes. I can't say I'm exactly in the mood for class today, though."
I laugh at this. Yep, that I can understand. I wasn't often in the mood for class after mind-blowing sex, which probably contributed to my lack of interest in returning for another year of schooling.
"Okay then. So lunch. Do you need to shower? I just want to get out of here, but you can shower if you want. There's a bathroom downstairs," I add. This is crucial, obviously.
He shrugs. "I don't think I'm too terribly smelly, although I could be wrong."
He isn't. "You're fine," I tell him.
"Then we can just go." He turns away from me, finding his clothing somewhere on my floor, and occupying himself with getting dressed.
He smiles brilliantly at me. "You better get dressed too, or my clothes won't stay on long, I can promise you that."
That's not exactly the type of promise to entice me into getting dressed but somehow it works, and I find myself leading Indra out the front door, having journeyed through a mercifully quiet main level of the house.
"Where to?" he asks me from the driver's seat of his Jeep. Oh, the philosophical debates of my psyche that such a seemingly simple question could trigger. I'm not sure where this is going. Is it a way for me to get back at Luke in the best way I can? Or is it something more? Right now, they're blurring together pretty well, but sooner or later, I'll have to focus on one over the other. If I'm not one to participate in an romantic coexistence, why would I be one to participate in a philosophical coexistence?
I sigh, sinking back into the seat of the Jeep. Fuck me long and hard, I don't think it's a lack of morals I'm finding out about myself. Jude would be so disappointed.
Whoa, sorry for taking a bit to update. Hopefully it was worth the wait though! Thanks for reading, everyone!
Jiro, I'll eventually cover what happened between Seb and Paris. It would be quite cruel of me to never wrap that up, so I can promise it will be resolved. I'm not sure when, but I'll definitely put something in here at some point. As for Gabe, he is a bit of a player, isn't he? Heh, I prefer to think that it's just the kind of carefree nature that does it for him – he sounds like less of a manwhore that way! Anyway, thanks for reading and for taking the time to review!