I am writing a series of flash fiction pieces set in O’Shea’s Pub. See Romantic Flash Fiction Anyone? for more information. Here’s the eighth one. Older brother’s best friend trope (male / male). It’s a little longer than the others. I hope you enjoy it.
Each step Sam had taken from home to O’Shea’s had dredged up every idiotic, stupid thing he’d ever done in front of Nate Jackson. Why, oh why, he thought, as he stomped his way down the street, couldn’t he have just declined the invite for this birthday get together tonight?
Nate was his brother’s best friend, he would’ve gotten over it. Maybe.
Nate would more than likely bring his latest boy and he’d be wide eyed and stunning like all the rest, and Sam would end up sitting there, smiling and resorting to quietly plotting gruesome deaths for the latest characters he was writing.
It didn’t help that there was a little masochistic voice in the back of his head saying, “It doesn’t matter that he remembers your spotty phase, or that time you accidentally mooned him when the elastic went on your trunks… and he saw your pride in tatters when Josh Hardy dumped you just before Valentine’s Day in 2005. You’re going to see him for the first time in six months. That’s all that matters. Seeing Nate.”
Six months. They’d never gone that long without seeing each other before. But after the last time he’d just had enough.
He couldn’t deal with seeing him and not being able to… God! What did he want? To call Nate his? To know he had the right to touch him – to go home with him – wake up with him?
They’d talked and laughed over a few pints of beer; the banter had been amazing. For the first time in forever they’d both been single and in the same city at the same time, he’d thought, he’d really thought that it might be their chance.
Then a couple of his friends turned up from work and one of them was a jacked blonde who blatantly had his knowing eyes set on Nate. Sam had felt such a heavy wave of weariness wash over him. Looking back he realised it had taken him under and swept all the fight out of him.
He’d given up. He wasn’t proud of that and it triggered the uncomfortable thought that maybe he’d given up too many times over the years.
Now, Sam wondered if that wave had washed all the good memories away, leaving him with only the embarrassing moments catalogued in his brain. They ran on a loop as he made his way into O’Shea’s and apparently there was no way to hit STOP.
With pale cheeks already flushed from the cool Spring wind, they immediately started to heat up from the rush of warmth in the Irish pub. He knew without a shadow of a doubt that this was going to be beyond excruciating.
He needed beer and lots of it – maybe even tequila.
Dragging himself to the bar, he tugged off his grey beanie, finger combed his short black hair into some semblance of respectability and shoved it into his coat pocket, purposefully not looking around. He needed a minute to gather himself and find his smile.
A chaotic mixture of emotions swarmed through him, anger at missed opportunities, devastation each time he’d watched Nate with another man, joy for all the laughter and good times they’d shared. Hell, he’d probably still be stuck in a closet somewhere if it weren’t for Nate.
His clenched fist pressed against the cold ache in his chest. He needed some tequila fire – stat – and he needed to get over this shit and move on. Some budding form of what felt like resolve started to straighten his spine.
Enough was enough. Maybe tonight could be the start of a new phase, a cleansing of all the emotions that held him back?
Ben, O’Shea’s bartender headed over with a smile.
“What can I get for you?”
Ben’s dark eyebrows shot up. “What’s got you riled up?”
“I’m about to put myself through hell. I need some help.” He slapped his hand on the bar. “Lay it on me.”
“Make that two,” demanded a low voice behind him.
Sam closed his eyes and winced. Struggling to swallow in his dry throat, he tried unsuccessfully to look nonchalant as he turned to greet the man who was spurring him toward tequila.
“Hello, Nate, How’s it going?”
Barely able to meet his dark brown eyes, Sam couldn’t stop his gaze from taking in every beloved detail of Nate’s familiar face. The stubble on his strong jaw that outlined his full lips made Sam lick his own, he couldn’t help it.
The light dusting of freckles high on his cheek bones that he’d always wanted to trace with his tongue. His stomach lurched as he was reminded how completely out of reach Nate was. Turning back to the bar he took hold of the salt that Ben had set up for him, licked the inside of his wrist and tapped a bit onto his moist skin.
Nate coughed. “Give a guy some warning, would you?”
Frowning, he stopped his arm as it was halfway to his mouth and glanced over his shoulder again. “What?”
His big, warm hand took hold of Sam’s forearm. “I want to lick it off.”
He couldn’t have heard him right. A grating, awkward laugh slipped out of his mouth and he shrugged Nate’s hand off his arm; a strange mix of uncertainty and excitement shimmering over his skin.
“Get your own tequila, buddy.” He licked the salt, maybe, possibly a little slower than he would’ve done normally and tossed the tequila back, welcoming the familiar warmth through his body and into his empty stomach. Closing his eyes as the sourness of the lime exploded in his mouth, he wondered what the hell to do next.
“I’ve never wanted to be a slice of lime more in my life,” Nate said roughly.
“Pardon?!” Sam coughed out. “Are you drunk already?”
“Come on,” he demanded, taking Sam’s hand. “We need to talk.”
“We do? Nate! What is wrong with you?” He hissed as Nate dragged him through the crowd back to the door of O’Shea’s.
Outside the cold blast of air mixed strangely with the warmth still coursing through his body from the tequila. He felt outside of himself, like an observer to whatever drama was about to unfold. Nate’s warm, rough hand gripped his own and Sam didn’t understand why he had hold of him so tight, but it felt good so he left it there.
Allowing Nate to lead him around the corner into a narrow alley, Sam eventually felt the rough wall at his back as the hot wall of Nate’s body moved towards him. He tore his stare from Nate’s broad chest up to rich, brown eyes that were looking pretty heated.
Sam narrowed his eyes at him. “Why are you so pissed off with me?”
Nate narrowed his eyes back. “Why are you so damn blind?!”
His eyes widened in surprise. “What?”
Nate shoved his hand through his thick, unruly hair. “Why did you need that tequila?”
“Why is it hell for you to come see me for my birthday?”
A stab of guilt. “Nate-”
“I haven’t seen you for six months, Sam. Six months. We’ve never gone that long without seeing each other.”
“I’ve been busy,” he answered sharply, and I didn’t want to know if you went home with the blonde, he thought bitterly. Pissed off with himself for even making that a possibility when he’d left so suddenly that night. The anger in Nate’s words vibrated like an arrow in Sam’s chest. He felt a knot of irritation start to form where the arrow pierced him and his defenses rose.
He took a breath in preparation.
“What do I have to do to get you to see me?”
Sam blinked and exhaled a gust of air as Nate’s soft words crashed through his brain. Too late he saw the hurt in his eyes and the tension around his beautiful mouth. What the hell was happening? What had he missed?
“Nate, I…” He shook his head, trying to figure out what this meant, but a lifetime of doubts and longing, unrequited feelings and humiliating attempts to get his attention were blocking his synapses.
“Shit!” Nate shoved his hands in his jean pockets and hunched his shoulders. “I thought… I thought this was the right time. Looks like I was wrong.”
He took his eyes away from Sam to stare at the wall behind him. Sam felt goose bumps spread over his skin and a painful jolt of panic made his heart thud as Nate began to turn away.
“Nate,” he whispered. Barely believing.
“Don’t worry about it, Sam, I… just forget I said anything, ok?”
Nate’s brittle smile hurt his heart as he began to move away from Sam, along with a burst of indignation.
“Hold on a minute!” He puffed out a frustrated breath when Nate stopped but didn’t turn to face him. “You can’t just spring this on me and expect me to instantly know what to say. When have I ever known what to say in mortifyingly awkward situations?”
Slowly, so slowly, Nate turned to him with his eyebrows raised. “Mortifyingly awkward? Gee thanks,” he said dryly.
Sam shrugged nonchalantly, but inside he was just starting to think about pumping his fist in celebration. “I need you to be a little clearer, Nate. I’m not admitting anything until you’ve stated plainly exactly what you want.”
He could give him that at least.
“So you’ve got things you want to admit then?” He asked, clearly stalling and looking a little hopeful.
Sam waved his hand dismissively. “Tell me what you want: slowly and clearly, please.”
Nate took a step closer, then another. “You want it slowly and clearly?”
“Yeah,” Sam said a little croakily. God he was just so… Ungh!
A gust of wind swirled down the alley, plastering Nate’s dark grey t-shirt across his torso and whipping his hair into disarray.
His hands came to rest on the wall either side of Sam’s head and he felt every last ounce of that resolve crumble into dust at his feet. He gave it an enthusiastic kick and scattered it in the wind.
“You’re sure you can handle another mortifyingly awkward moment?” Nate asked softly with a glint in his eyes.
Sam felt his whole body go pliant and loose, but managed to nod as Nate’s head lowered until his lips rested by Sam’s ear. His eyes closed as Nate’s warm breath caressed his skin. A long, sumptuous shiver stroking down his spine.
Finally, he said the words Sam had waited a lifetime to hear.
“You. I want you.”