Finals week was over. Cio didn’t mind big tests. He still hated finals week though. No matter how prepared he was, he fell into the trap of staying up too late studying things he already knew. It paid off every time though. Since getting into his college, he’d managed perfect scores on almost every midterm and final exam.
He now had three short months to relax before he started grad school back in his hometown and he intended to make the best of these months. He was getting drunk. Partying. Getting laid. Four years of focus and attention and summers full of classes and he was taking a break. Starting now.
The bar he and his friends had chosen to go to was a little off campus. It was more laid back, usually, and generally attracted an older crowd. It was a good place to start the night. Calm enough atmosphere that they could complain about finals, cheap enough drinks they could get pleasantly buzzed, then, before the night got too late, they could head to the campus bars for loud music, too many drinks, and sticky dance floors.
On second thought, Cio would be more than ok staying at the first bar.
He was early. His final final ended at 4:30. The rest didn’t get out until closer to 8. When the clock struck 6, he stretched and got an uber. The bar was just starting to get a little busier. The small, dark booths lining the walls were mostly full of groups eating some bar food and drinking. The bar itself had only two people occupying the barstools. There was a couple playing on one of the two pool tables. The slot machines sat empty in the corner. A man in gray slacks and a white button up sat alone at a table sipping what looked like whiskey from a small glass. Cio did a double take at him as he made his way to the bar.
The man was handsome. Dark hair with a hint of silver at his temples. Older than Cio, for sure, but immensely attractive. But then, Cio’s always had a thing for a man who dressed nice. He’s also always had a thing for older men.
His box of cigarettes were in his jacket pocket. He glanced towards the outside seating but forced the thought away. It was too early for a cigarette. “Guinness.” He said gestured to the tap handle when the bartender turned his way. She pushed a full glass towards him and he took a long drink. It’d been a while since he’d been out drinking and the taste was a welcome reminder of his several month break.
He finished his first glass and watched the baseball game on the flatscreen behind the bar. He didn’t particularly care for the teams, but it was something to do while he waited for everyone else to finish up and meet him here. The bartender refilled his drink. He steadily drained it too.
As she filled the glass again, he rose to go to the bathroom and felt the alcohol hit. His legs were beginning to feel pleasantly numb and the forefront of his brain had the start of fuzziness. His fingers itched for a cigarette.
He grabbed his drink on the way back, stole another glance at the man still sipping his whiskey, and went to the outdoor seating. It had been drizzling earlier so the metal chairs were damp, but Cio sat in one anyway. He was alone outside, but a microphone and sound equipment was sitting on the mini stage near the back of fenced in area. He was enjoying the buzz and drinking this glass slower. His cigarette calmed his mind further and he closed his eyes to enjoy the sounds of the city at evening time.
His evening calm was interrupted by the door swinging open and sounds of the bars shattered the silence of the night for a few seconds. It quieted down and Cio heard footsteps approaching. Cio’s heart skipped and he wondered if it was the guy with the whiskey.
“Can I bum a smoke?” An attractive, deep voice asked. It didn’t sound like the kind of voice the guy with the whiskey would have, but maybe he was wrong. With his eyes still shut, he pulled out a cigarette and handed it over. “Thanks. Got a light?”
He fished his lighter out and held it up as well. Soft fingers closed around his. Cio’s eyes popped open and he stared as an older man lit the cigarette without removing the lighter from Cio’s hand. The man smiled at him in what Cio guessed was supposed to be a charming manner, but just looked greasy. Cio was repulsed. He liked well-dressed, older men, which is exactly what this guy was. He was just giving off all the wrong vibes and Cio had learned long ago to trust that gut instinct.
Cio tried to pull his hand away but the guy’s grip tightened. “The fuck dude? Let go.”
“I saw you tossing back those drinks in there and I thought I should make sure you were doing ok.”
The grip grew tighter. Cio hopped out of his seat. His legs were still feeling floaty, but his mind was hyper-focused on the grip on his hand. He yanked again but the guy returned the pull and Cio stumbled into him. An arm came up around his shoulders.
“Should I get you some water? Or maybe you need a ride home?” His voice was no longer attractive to Cio. “Come on, what’s your name? I’m John.” Cio debated shoving the burning end of his cigarette on the man, but it seemed a little extreme when he wasn’t in any real danger.
“No, man. I’m waiting for some friends who’ll be here any-” The door opened and the bar’s sounds broke the relative quiet of the patio. “See. Here they are now.” He pulled against the grip again. “Let go, creep.” Now that there was someone else outside with him, any flicker of fear he’d felt before had disappeared into a wave of anger.
“Is there a problem?” A smooth voice interrupted. The hand finally loosened and Cio pulled free.
“Yeah, this guy doesn’t understand simple commands,” Cio said. It was a little bit of a ridiculous statement but anger was still coursing in his veins so he didn't really care all the much how it sounded. Cio absently rubbed at the hand the guy had been clutching and stepped back.
“I was trying to make sure you could get home ok after downing those three beers that fast.”
Cio rolled his eyes. “Yeah man, I’m obviously completely smashed.” It hadn’t even been all that fast. The guy, John, was blocking his view of whoever had come outside. “And my friend has clearly arrived, so it’s time for you to be going.”
Soft footsteps, barely able to be heard over Cio’s pounding heart, approached. A hand, long-fingered with clean, short nails, landed on the other guy’s shoulder. Cio’s eyes traced up the arm and landed on the whiskey drinking guy’s incredibly attractive face. He looked even better up close. His heart skipped a beat and some of the anger was replaced with a more positive emotion. “Are you going to leave us alone now, or should I call the cops?”
John’s face blanched and he took a step back. “No cops necessary. Like I said, just trying to keep him safe.” John beat a quick retreat and disappeared back into the now too loud bar.
“Thanks, man.” Cio swallowed against the appearance of lust as the man cocked a small, close-lipped grin at him. His blue eyes were dark in the dim lighting. A light layer of dark stubble covered his chin and cheeks. Cio had never been so turned on so fast. It ratcheted up a few notches when he took in the tailored outfit that perfectly showed off the man’s long, trim body. Getting a grip on himself, he held out his hand for a handshake. “I’m Cio.”
“Richard.” Richard returned the handshake with a firm squeeze, then lingered before pulling back. Cio felt a warm flush rush through him at the returned interest. “I’ll leave you to waiting for your friends then.”
“Ah, you could join me if you want? They’ll be a little while still and I wouldn’t want that guy to return.”
There was a moment’s hesitation. Cio was certain Richard was about to say no and walk away, and Cio would understand. After all, he was a twenty-two-year-old kid looking forward to his summer break. Richard was probably one of his classmate’s fathers here early for graduation. Oh god. What if he was sitting here checking out one of his friend’s dad.
Could he ask? Would that be rude? What if he wasn’t even all that much older than him?
“Sure. Another drink?”
Cio blinked. He rewound the conversation. Sure. Sure. Richard agreed to join him. “Ah, yeah. Guinness.” He reached for his wallet but Richard held up a hand and shook his head.
Richard left to get the drinks. Cio fell into his seat and raised his forgotten cigarette to his lips. He puffed on it, not much was even left, and shot a quick text to his friends to let them know he wouldn’t be joining them right away, if at all. Richard came back with a closed bottle of Guinness, a frosted glass, and a draft of something light for himself. “Draft would have been fine,” he said as Richard set the bottle and glass down in front of him.
“Don’t accept open drinks from strangers.” Richard frowned and Cio tipped his bottle towards him in acknowledgment.
“I don’t usually.” He’d never had a stranger offer to buy him a drink. Considering he and his friends rarely went out to bars, there hadn’t been many opportunities. He debated lighting up but resisted. He didn’t want to be a chain smoker, though drinking made it hard to stick to his own rules.
“Celebrating the end of the semester?”
Cio nodded. “Yeah. Wait, you’re not a professor are you?”
Richard gave another of his close-lipped smiles. “No. I’m not. What are you studying?”
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