Steven walked into the Blue Saloon, looking around. It looked like a pub, not a nightclub or a Roman bath. There was wood flooring and brick walls, a long bar, beer on tap, and classic rock playing on the sound system. He snorted to himself as he A Torquere Press Arcana -1 .
headed to the bar and grabbed himself a stool. When had he become old enough that the good music was called classic? Not his usual watering hole, the Blue Saloon felt comfortable, and the admiring looks he could feel thrown his way didn't hurt. The bartender was busy at the other end of the bar, which was fine; it gave him a chance to do some admiring of his own. Like the man a few stools down. Now there was someone just his type: short, built, glasses. Steven didn't always go for the full beard and mustachioed, but he didn't dislike facial hair. Oh, nice blue eyes. Smiling, he moved over. The man looked over at him once, then twice, then again, almost like they'd met. Then the man looked back into his beer glass, shoulders hunched a little.
"It's my first time here. It's nice and warm, friendly." He smiled and took a sip of the martini that had been put down in front of him. "You knew the bartender’s name, so I assume you're a regular?" "Yeah. Yeah, I'm in here a lot." "You seem so familiar. Are you sure we haven't met?" "Well, man. If we had and you didn't remember me, that would suck." "It would. I can't imagine forgetting you." Still, those eyes were so familiar it almost hurt.
"Put me up to what?" "The looks, the nickname. Who the hell thought it would be funny? Because I don't think it's funny at all." Steven wrapped his arms around himself, the evening suddenly seeming very cold after the warmth of the bar.
"Sure. You and Andy get into a fight or something? He's a good guy, but he's a hard pickup." "What? You're in on it, too?" He leaned in, voice low, tight. "Who put you up to this?" "Huh?" The bottle was held, half-above the glass. "You might not need this, man." "Trust me, I fucking need it. And I want to know who put you up to this -- did someone come in here and pay you to drop that name?" God, he was shaking.
"No. He went to school for it for a while, but he's a builder. He was in a real bad accident a hundred years ago or something." Another big, gruff man chuckled. "He's all creaky in the cold." Steven's head hurt. His stomach was in knots. "Ten years ago. It was ten years ago." And he'd been told Andy was dead. He'd buried the man for Christ's sake.
"Excuse me?" What the fuck? He was the one who'd been hurt. Fucked. Scarred. Dumped. Deserted. "A knock on my door. Our door. You were dead. No open casket --they identified you by your teeth. I have mourned you for ten years!" "What the fuck are you talking about?" "What the fuck am I talking about? I'm talking about being told you were dead. I'm talking about buying caskets and a fucking headstone with your name on it." "Do I fucking look dead to you?" Jesus, this was a mindfuck. He had a life. He was happy. Why the fuck was Steven here? "No. No, you don't." Sagging against the wall, Steven looked as if he was about to faint. "Why?" "Why what?" "Why did you have them tell me you were dead? I don't get it. I loved you, Andy. My heart still aches with it." "Excuse me?" Oh, now. That was fucking enough. "Look, you lousy motherfucker. I was in the Goddamn hospital for over a Goddamn year! I was the one who had to deal with the lawyers. I was the one who got the lecture about how your fucking insurance wasn't going to pay for reconstructive surgery. About how you weren't going to be held responsible. About how you were young and healthy and didn't feel like it was in your best fucking interest to come see me!” He slammed his hand into the wall, the skin around his knuckles splitting. "Get out of my house!" Instead of getting out, Steven was sinking down along the wall, shaking. "What?" The man shook his head. "Dead. They said you were dead. I didn't. I don't. Oh, my God." "Get up." Andy couldn't fucking handle this. It was Friday night. He needed a fucking break. "Get up off the floor." Steven reached out for him. "Please, Andy. Don't you get it? They told me you were dead." "No. No, I don't get it." He shook his head, feeling more than a little sick to his stomach. "I swear, Andy. I was told you were dead. I buried you. I didn't know. I would have been there, but I didn’t know." Steven closed his eyes and banged his head against the wall. "I didn't know." "Would you fucking stop it!" He reached down, grabbed Steven and stood him up on his feet. It had been a long fucking time since he'd dealt well with drama. A Torquere Press Arcana -7 .
"Excuse the fuck me for being freaked the hell out, Andy. It's not every day I come face to face with my dead lover." "Well, it's not every day I run into the fuckhead who sent me out for porn and ice cream and dumped me." "I didn't fucking dump you! You died on me!" Steven was breathing hard.
"I don't. You and me, we got shit to work out, man." Steven blinked and stepped back, shaking himself a little like a dog. "Sorry. I. You're right. I'm just glad you're alive, Andy." The words were softly spoken, tight.
He drank his coffee, poured another cup, not knowing what to say. "How'd you find the house?" "I've got some connections and a Blackberry. Once I knew to look for you, you were pretty easy to find." Steven bit his lip. "I want to touch you, Andy. I want to hold you and hug you." "I'm not much into touching these days, Pe. man. Come on, I gotta let the dogs in." He had scars, bad ones, and no matter what the fairy stories said, you didn't just get your life back. Steven looked so fucking sad. It was almost enough to make him feel sorry for the guy. Almost. "I never stopped loving you." Steven followed him to the back door. "That's not how the story went on this side of town. You stopped loving me a long time ago." He let the beasts in, both of the rotties curious about Steven --Jolene sniffing and Pug nuzzling. Steven spared the dogs a glance, hand petting absently. "Whatever they told you --it wasn't true. I didn't know or I would have been at your side. Andy. Andy, please." "Please what, Penny? We're not the same people now, at least I'm not. I'm a big old redneck and your people would like me a hell of a lot less these days." Hell, his people hated Steven with a passion -- from baby Jen to his granny. Steven snorted. "My people never liked you, Andy, and I never let that stop me from seeing you." Eyes dark with pain, Steven turned away from him. "I can't imagine what you went through or how it felt to think I didn't care enough to stick around, but could you take a minute to think of what I went through, believing you were dead?" "I'm sorry, man. I mean, it must've sucked for you and I hope you got on with your life after." Went back to school. Fell in love. Traveled. Steven turned around again. "You could find out. We could. I don't know -- date. See if we've really changed that much. Please, Andy, my only wish for the last ten years was a chance to tell you I loved you one more time and now I've got it. I can't just say 'hey, glad you're still alive, I really loved you, you know' and walk away forever. I can't." He blinked and chuckled. Shit. That was why he'd fallen for the silly bastard ten years ago. Steven was smart, clever and could talk like nobody's business. "No? Well, you could at least do the 'hey, glad you're still alive part.'" "Oh, God, Andy. I am. Why do you think I'm here begging for another chance? I am so glad you're alive. And I did love you. More than anything." One hand reached out, touching his face where the scars hid beneath his beard. "I'd have stood by you, Andy. You know I never cared what our families thought." A Torquere Press Arcana -10 .