He was back.
I stood back, sipping on the drink my current mark had bought me. I thought, maybe, that talking to him might fuck things up with the guy I was pursuing. He was a jealous one, one of those possessive types that were so easy to rile up. I wasn’t really feeling like riling him up tonight, had been planning on giving him everything he wanted and then making him give me what I needed, but.
He was back.
I’d spent the last fucking however long thinking of him, dreaming of him. Trying to understand why he got to me the way he did, why my stomach hurt so bad when he got inside of me. To be fair, it probably hurt because he wasn’t inside of me. Nothing really seemed to satisfy me anymore, not like I knew he would.
I’d tried other commanding men; I’d tried men that needed commanding. I’d tried people so intense I usually wouldn’t go near them, unless I was real fucked up. Well. I was real fucked up. He fucked me up by not fucking me, how funny was that? And there was nothing I could do about it. Yeah, those guys got me off, or at least most of them had, but for some reason that hadn’t been enough.
I mean, what the fuck else did I need?
I felt like he’d broken me, somehow. Like he’d put this hole inside of me and there was nothing, nothing that would fill it except for him.
And I’d fucked it all up, fucked it up so bad. Screaming and stealing and running.
I knew that was why he hadn’t come back into the bar since that morning. I knew he didn’t want to see me, didn’t want to deal with my broken ass. And as crazy as not having him made me, I think I prefered him not here. Crazy I could do. Broken I could handle. I wasn’t so sure I was ready to deal with whatever I would become when he filled up that hole inside my soul.
If. Not when. I caught myself hung up on that word and felt my lips pulling up into a grimace.
Besides, I reasoned. There was no way he wanted what I wanted.
I caught the irony of the statement. I don’t think you want me in the ways that I want you, he’d told me the first time we’d met. And maybe he’d been right.
I didn’t know what I wanted, but I was pretty sure that it was more than the quick fuck he would take from me whenever it was that he got me sober. After all, it wasn’t like he cared. He’d been very clear about that.
I let more vodka slip over my tongue and thought about that. That was really what had been bothering me the past week. He acted like he cared, more than any do-gooder ever had in my life. He acted like he didn’t want anything from me, which I knew was shit. I knew what he wanted from me, and it was the same thing that everyone else did. The only thing anyone else did.
But then what was that shit with the pancakes? Why had he let me stay? And then there had been that kiss.
But then, my brain flipflopped before I could let myself stray down that path too long, why had he said he didn’t care? Why did he never stop you from destroying yourself?
Not, a third part of my brain argued, that you wanted him to. Because you’re fine. You don’t need stopped; you would stop if you wanted to.
I felt a twinge in my gut at that and looked down at the vodka in my hands before I could stop myself.
You know, the original part of my brain said, or maybe some other, different, insidious part. He’s right there. You could just ask him.
I let my eyes trace up to him and narrowed my gaze, then shot a look at the guy I was supposed to be coming back to. He looked deep in conversation with Chad, but I saw him scanning the bar. Probably for me.
I bit my cheek and looked back to the man who put a hole in my soul.
He didn’t tense this time when I reached him, which made me feel. I don’t know. On one hand, it felt good to see that he didn’t hate me for the way I’d acted the last time I’d seen him, and a huge part of me was relieved to see no sign of distress on his perfect fucking muscled shoulders when he caught sight of me there. On the other hand, god, it pissed me the fuck off that he didn’t have any reaction to me.
I mean. Me.
“So,” I said, carefully not careful. I leaned on the bar and wondered what it would take to get him to notice me; I wondered if I wanted him to.
“So,” he responded, and his eyes didn’t land on me, and I sighed and crossed my arms against the lack of interest in his voice.
“So,” I responded, trying really fucking hard not to look at him. He was delicious tonight, like he was every night, and I was kicking myself for showing up at all, for letting myself be drug here, for believing Bren when he said that he probably wouldn’t even be here.
I mean, what else could have happened? Of course he would be here. Of course he would be dressed like this, those ever present skin tight black pants, an emerald shirt that made his eyes look bottomless, his hair forever tempting. That braid.
“You need a drink?” I heard myself ask, and mentally kicked myself. The last thing I should be doing was offering this guy a drink, especially after our last fight had been about alcohol. I thought. Maybe. I still had no real idea what had set him off.
But he was shaking his head, lifting a nearly full glass into my vision. The ice cubes clinked and I had a moment where my brain went places without me, remembering how he had reacted beneath my fingers and an ice cube, how he had melted, how he had looked at me with those dark eyes of his and the way he had smelled…
He shifted and I tore my gaze away, painfully aware of how long I might have been looking. No, I told myself. He’s bad news. You’re just as bad for him. You’ll fall for him the moment he gives in to you the first night, and you can’t afford to fall anymore. Not when he won’t stick around to play catch.
“What do you want, then,” I asked, a little more sharply than I’d intended. I didn’t notice how he reacted, because I wasn’t looking at him.
Just kidding. Of course I was looking at him. He turned his head away and took a long look at a guy sitting across the bar, who was looking back at him. Probably the guy who’d bought him the drink. He didn’t say anything for a while. The silence stretched out long enough that I started crafting an apology, but he cut me off before I even began.
“I just wanted to get it.” His eyes were back on me; I noticed that his pupils weren’t blown out like I was used to seeing them. Maybe that’s why he felt so much more intense than usual; his chemicals weren’t swinging around like I usually found.
He flipped his hair, giving me a glimpse of that braid that I liked so much. “You.”
I could have laughed. Almost did. I liked this version of him, liked his directness and the hardness he pulled from wherever he pulled it from. The fire that I could feel just below the surface of his words. “Yeah,” I told him, unsure if he even realized he’d asked a question. I understood. “Go ahead.”
I got a quick, peircing look for that. I liked that look, too, wanted to see it in a thousand different contexts. But I didn’t have a lot of time to think about that, because he was quick, making words drop from the pulsing air. “Did you mean it?”
He gave quick exhale of annoyance, and I raised a brow and leaned on my hand. Behind him, the guy he had made eye contact with was staring at us, eyes angry. He probably didn’t love that the man he bought a drink for was spending his time with another man. Well, fuck him. “Cryptic questions make it hard to answer. Can you be more specific?”
He fidgeted before me, and I got lost for a moment in his hands. But his voice pulled me right back. “When you said you didn’t care.”
Oh. Man, there were a lot of answers to this question. Yes, I meant it, now get out of my life and do what you need to do on your own; no, I didn’t mean it, seeing you killing yourself like this is killing me; yes, and no, because I barely know you, and therefore can barely care, and yet I feel like I’ve known you forever, so seeing you killing yourself like this is killing me, but get out of my life and do what you need to do on your own. I mean, what the fuck was I supposed to say?
So I answered, as truthfully and concisely as I could, “I needed it to be your decision.”
He made that same frustrated huff again, but I saw the way his shoulders turned from me. That had been the wrong answer. What would be right? He was seconds away from walking away, I could see it on his body; what could I do to make him stay?
It wasn’t right, I knew, to be thinking about getting him to stay. I should be making sure that he was okay. I should be doing what was right by him. But all of that had gone out the fucking window when he’d come up to me so goddamn perfect. And so my next words were not what he needed to hear, they were not what I knew would make him what he needed to be. Instead, they were the fucking truth.
“I care,” my voice stated quietly. I watched him freeze and cursed, cursed my fucking brain for making this decision without me. He didn’t need to hear this, and I really fucking didn’t need him to know. It kills me to see you like this, I wanted to tell him. I know what you’re going through, and it haunts me every night, the ghost of your loneliness. The specter of your isolation, even from yourself. The echoes of your pain. But if I told him that, I was in danger of breaking; if I told him that, I would admit how much my soul had attached to this stranger. So I just stared at him, wondering how much of this he already knew.
He wasn’t looking at me. “Then why did you say you didn’t?”
Again, the truth rose to my tongue. What had happened to saying the right thing, the careful thing? “Because I don’t want you to stop because of me.”
He stiffened at that. I had known, as I said it, that he wouldn’t react well. And yet, and yet. He had asked. And I couldn’t deny him, not anymore. Possibly not ever, not since the first time he had told me to buy him a drink.
“I don’t need to fucking stop. And why the fuck would I stop for you.” He pushed himself away from the bar, and he wasn’t looking at me. I was silent, letting his words fall. “You’re no different than the rest of them, you know.”
“I know,” I told the pulsing beat.
“Trying to make me something I’m not, take from me whatever you fucking want. You don’t even fucking see me.”
“I know.” I was nothing if not another stranger trying to tell him what to do, how to act, trying to make him into something he didn’t want to be. How was I any different than the men who pushed him into bathroom stalls, each using a different name that suited their needs?
“You’re a fucking asshole,” he continued. I nodded, not caring that he wasn’t looking at me, not caring that he was right. It was what it was. I had known that before I had come here.
It still fucking sucked to hear him say it.
The bartender was there as he left, sucked in by the vacuum that incredible man had left behind. “Why do you even try, man,” he laughed, and I wanted so badly to punch him in the face.