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Power of Two

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Dorian leans on the high-top table and shifts his weight to his other foot, surveying the crowded club with interest. At eleven o'clock on a Friday night, it's not yet packed, but there are still plenty of people around and no need to fight for a table. Even if the smaller crowd means he can't find someone to take home, he likes watching the people and he really likes not wearing his drink all over the front of his shirt.

Over the noise of the club, Max shouts in his ear, "Quit looking and pick someone! You haven't gotten laid in four months!"

Dorian turns to give him a quelling look. "Why thank you. Do you think you could repeat that a little louder? I believe there may be one or two people outside who didn't quite catch it."

"I'm just saying, we're here to celebrate, so let's celebrate!" Max raises his highball glass and clinks it against Dorian's, who takes a sip of his Coke to show willing. "If you're not going to drink," Max adds, "the least you can do is be promiscuous. I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that you get disbarred if you don't have some kind of self-destructive vice by the time you've made partner. And as you have now made partner, you really need to get on that."

Dorian grins and takes a longer drink from his glass, though the only buzz he's going to get off the contents will be from the caffeine. As he lowers the glass, his gaze falls on a guy by the bar: tall as fuck, head shaved, dark skin a startling contrast to the brilliant white of his t-shirt. The guy is watching him, and he smiles when Dorian meets his eyes.

Well, when Dorian's eyes meet his eye, as he's only got one. Whether the eyepatch covering the other is a temporary or permanent feature, Dorian doesn't know, and doesn't actually much care. The guy looks good, and he's got a smile that's wide and wicked, and Max is right, it has been too damn long.

"You know what," Dorian says, looking away from the bar as his heart starts to beat a little faster in anticipation, "you're right."

Max clutches his chest melodramatically. "Sweet Jesus, let me mark my calendar."

"Ha. Ha. Just for that, I'm leaving you now." Dorian drains his glass and starts toward the bar, only to turn back and ask, "You need anything?"

"I'm good," Max says, shaking his own glass gently. "Software developers aren't required to be alcoholics, so I'm going to give it a few more years before I really start pickling my liver."

"Amateur," Dorian says, and Max laughs.

Dorian takes another step toward the bar, then pauses to tug on the front of his shirt, more from nerves than an actual need to straighten anything. It's been a long time since he last tried to pick anyone up in a club, a lot longer than the four months it's been since he last had sex. Does he even look all right? He let Max talk him into jeans and a button-down shirt, but he's spent so much time lately in a suit and tie that he feels hideously under-dressed now.

"You look fine," Max calls from behind him, and Dorian laughs even as he feels his face flush with embarrassment. "Seriously. If he doesn't drop to his knees and offer to suck you off on the spot, you know I'll do it for you."

Around them, several people have turned to stare, and Dorian closes his eyes for a moment, torn between laughter and annoyance. A common state of affairs around Max, and not only for Dorian. Probably just as well the man doesn't want a relationship with anyone, because Dorian can't imagine someone saintly enough to put up with his shit on a routine basis.

Before Max can offer any other helpful suggestions, Dorian tugs his shirt one last time and pulls himself together. Max and the embarrassment he's caused go in their own little box in Dorian's head, and he puts on the confident swagger he usually reserves for work. It's a skill he can thank his parents for, and as little as he wants to thank them for anything, it's certainly useful. He fixes his mind firmly on the present and ignores everything else as he begins to push his way through the crowd in search of his quarry.

The guy was huge, towering over everyone else around him, so he shouldn't be hard to spot, but Dorian scans the club with no luck. The crowd is thick enough that it takes him several minutes to reach the bar, and Dorian has just about decided that the guy's gone, when he reaches the bar and sees him again.

Unfortunately, the sight is not encouraging. The guy is bent over at the waist--which explains why he seemed to disappear in the space of a few seconds--talking to a pretty young woman who's smiling up at him, leaning forward and up on her toes to get close enough to talk to him.

His body language is harder to read than hers, and Dorian holds out a faint hope, until the guy leans down to say something in her ear that makes her laugh.

Ah well. With a philosophical shrug and a mild twinge of regret, Dorian debates the relative merits of continuing on his current course or returning to Max. Max, who will tease him unmercifully if he comes back alone. And it seems a shame to waste the effort it took to get himself in the right frame of mind.

The bar it is, then.

###

Aware that his staring is in danger of crossing the line into creepy, Bull forces himself to look away from the guy at the high-top in the corner, but wow. That's some smile, and it's making Bull rethink his initial evaluation. He noticed the guy right off--Bull's short one eye, not two--but he kept to the bar and watched for a little while, trying to decide if he actually wanted to make a move. The last person Bull picked up at this club was a little too fond of head games, and he's learned to be wary.

It's not clear from watching the guy whether he likes that sort of thing, and Bull's never had much patience for people who play hard-to-get. Either someone is interested or they're not, and outside the bedroom and the defined limits of a safeword, he has better things to do than chase someone who can't be bothered to say yes. He's not going to play some stupid game where he has to leave an unspecified and ever-changing number of messages before he's rewarded with a return call.

Right up until the guy smiled, Bull had him tentatively classified as the kind who would play those games, but now he's not so sure. That smile wasn't even a little bit coy.

Someone punches him in the arm, and he looks down to see Lace grinning up at him. She says something he can't hear over the noise, so he leans closer. "Say again?"

"See something you like?" she asks, leaning in to get her mouth a few inches closer to his ear.

"Oh yeah," he says, picturing that smile again.

"So go get 'em," Lace says, laughing.

"Wouldn't want to leave you all by your lonesome."

"Puh-lease," she says. "Krem'll be here soon, and Cabot'll keep an eye on me in the meantime, make sure I don't get into too much trouble."

Behind her, Bull can see Krem making his way through the crowd now, so he leans down even farther despite the protest from his back and murmurs in her ear, "Make that boy take you someplace nicer than this dive. And his bedroom doesn't count."

Lace throws back her head and laughs, and Bull grins himself. She's pretty on her own, and even prettier when she laughs. She might be Krem's girlfriend, but Bull can still appreciate the view, even if he has no interest in touching.

Which reminds him of the guy with the killer smile. Bull's definitely interested in exploring the possibility of some touching, there. "You kids have fun," he says and straightens, rubbing at his back. Too many years jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, that's his problem, but the ache in his back isn't his primary concern right now.

Unfortunately, the guy with the smile isn't at the table where Bull last saw him. His friend is still there, still nursing his drink, but the other guy, the one Bull actually wanted to talk to, has vanished into the crowd.

Bull looks at the friend left behind at the table and replays the interaction he watched between the two men a few minutes ago, just to check himself. Based on the little he saw, they're close, intimate even, but definitely not lovers and probably not fuck buddies. Which is the happy conclusion Bull came to the first time, and still completely useless now that the other guy has disappeared.

For a second, he considers wandering over to chat up the friend. He's not bad looking, and he's currently alone, surveying the crowd with a superior little smile on his face. In Afghanistan, Bull knew a Brit who would have called this guy a posh tosser: lord and master of all he surveys.

Right, no thanks.

About to give up and see if Krem and Lace's plans for the evening are actually something family-friendly, the crowd parts for just a second, and the guy's right there, less than twenty feet away. He's turned in profile to Bull, his elbows propped on the bar and taking up way too much space for a Friday evening. Cocky son of a bitch. Not that Bull necessarily considers that a bad thing, depending on what else goes with it. For that face, and especially that smile, Bull's willing to at least risk a conversation.

Bull begins pushing his way through the crowd, which of course has decided to unpart itself now that he's trying to get through. His height and broad shoulders help, though, as people move automatically out of his way, and he's careful to smile as he goes. No point pissing anyone off, though it's a little early in the evening for any guys to be drunk enough to want to pick a fight just for the perceived macho points they'll get from taking on someone as big as Bull.

Just before Bull reaches him, the guy turns and sees him. Both of his eyebrows go up, which isn't nearly as welcoming as the smile when their eyes first met across the club. Still, Bull's here now, so he leans one hip against the bar, close enough to talk comfortably, and says with a grin, "So I'm going to stick with the classics. I don't think I've seen you around here before. Come here often?"

The guy's mouth twitches. "Not often, no. A friend of mine recommended it, and I thought I'd give it a try."

"What do you think so far?"

"Not bad," he says. "It's more of a mixed crowd than I was expecting. I'm more used to seeing straight clubs with a few gay people hanging around, or gay clubs with a few straight people hanging around."

"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" Then Bull realizes he still doesn't know the guy's name, and he holds out one hand. "I'm Bull, by the way."

"Dorian." He's got a good firm handshake, and he doesn't try to hold on too long. Which is kind of a shame, really, since he's even hotter up close than he was from a distance. He also doesn't even raise an eyebrow at Bull's name, or ask something stupid like, "Really?" which is definitely a relief.

"So...mixed crowd. Good thing or bad thing?" Bull asks.

"A bit of both," Dorian says. "More fun to watch, but sometimes you guess wrong when you think someone's interested." There's nothing in his tone to indicate Dorian's doing anything other than making polite conversation, but Bull wonders anyway. Is that a hint to back off?

God he hates guessing games.

"What about you?" Dorian asks, and he's still got that funny little half smile. "Do you come here often?"

"A fair amount. I'm friends with the lady who owns the place, and she says there's always less fighting on nights I'm here." He gestures at himself, figuring the reason is self-explanatory.

"I'm guessing you don't have to actually break up a lot of fights," Dorian says. "Do you just walk up and loom over them?"

"Usually, yeah," Bull says. As an experiment, he leans in a little closer, and Dorian leans back. Not obviously and not immediately, but the next time he shifts his weight, he re-establishes the distance between them.

Bull has to admit he's disappointed, and a tiny bit frustrated. He's usually better at reading people than this, and he can't remember the last time he thought someone was interested when they really weren't.

"You here with someone?" Bull asks, as he tries to decide if he should be planning his exit strategy at this point.

"Just a friend of mine." Dorian tilts his head toward the high-top where Bull first saw him. Then he grins, and while it's not the come-fuck-me smile from earlier, it's endearing in its own, excited way. "He dragged me out to celebrate making partner."

"Congratulations," Bull says, hoping Dorian might be looking for a celebratory fuck, not just a celebratory drink.

Not that he's given any sign he's interested, and Bull reluctantly admits that Dorian could very well be one of those idiots who likes head games. Still, he's polite and clearly not drunk off his ass, and Bull doesn't have anyone else to talk to, so what the hell.

"It's a little early for the main crowd," Bull says, just to draw out the conversation. "You really want to celebrate, wait until two in the morning."

"I know," Dorian says. "But it gives me a better chance to watch people without getting stepped on, and a better chance of finding someone who's not too drunk to walk."

Bull can't resist asking, "Having any luck?"

If Dorian hears the subtext, he ignores it. "It's always a craps shoot," he says. "Sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes he's got six roommates in a studio apartment."

Bull laughs, even as he takes note of the pronoun. So he at least got that much right: Dorian's interested in guys.

"You laugh," Dorian says dryly, "but that happened to my friend there." He tilts his head toward the high-top again. "Walked in the door to find bunk beds on three walls, or so he says. I never did ask him what happened after, but given that it's Max, he probably just made them all take a number." Dorian's laughing as he says this, and it's a nice laugh, warm and low. "My life's nowhere near that interesting. The worst thing that's ever happened to me is the guy who spent two hours explaining that Sasquatch is real. It was even sort of funny for the first twenty minutes or so."

"Roach Central," Bull says, and waits for Dorian to give him a questioning look before he goes on. "That was my worst. Place was a wreck: trash everywhere, dirty plates higher than the sink, all that. I took two steps in the door, counted fifteen roaches, and went right back out."

Dorian makes an exaggerated gagging noise, but he looks amused. "I'll stick with Sasquatch, thanks. It sounds cleaner."

The conversation lags, and Bull tries to think of something to say to prolong it. He's still not sure if Dorian's actually interested, but Bull's enjoying his company, and that's a lot harder to find than someone willing to suck his dick.

"So you're friends with the club owner?" Dorian asks, and Bull can't help but think it's a good sign if Dorian's not edging away at the first opportunity.

"We were in the army together. I'm a cheap bastard, and she lets me drink for free so long as I loom by the bar," Bull says, then amends, "Well, she lets me drink for free so long as I keep my drinks to beer or soda."

This time, Dorian doesn't just smile but actually smiles at him, and Bull has to stop himself from leaning into it, because it's not a flirtatious smile and he doesn't want to be No-Personal-Space Guy.

He knows he should leave it alone, but he can't resist adding, "I guess I probably shouldn't have admitted that, since I was going to offer to buy you a drink."

Dorian's smile fades, replaced by a quizzical frown. "Buy me a drink?"

"Yeah, you know," Bull says, a little puzzled himself. "I buy you a drink, we chat, see what happens." Why does he feel like this conversation is suddenly taking place in a different language? "Kind of like we're doing now, only with more alcohol."

It's obvious Dorian is having some kind of internal debate, but eventually he says, "Let's define our terms. When a man offers to buy me a drink and suggests we 'chat,' he usually means nothing of the sort. Well, mouths are involved, but not much talking. Is it safe for me to assume that your definition of chat is the one that doesn't involve talking?"

Bull stares at him, taken aback by the bluntness. Not that he objects, it's just that he's used to being the one laying it all out on the table like that--so to speak--and it takes him a second to recover. "Well, yeah, but I usually get slapped if I say, 'Let me buy you a drink and fuck you.'"

Dorian's glass is empty, but he tries to take another drink from it anyway, and Bull feels hope rekindle. This time when he leans forward, Dorian doesn't lean away.

His expression is still guarded, though. "I happened to see you talking to a rather attractive woman earlier."

Ah ha! Bull thinks, confidence growing now that he knows the source of the strange disconnect between this conversation and Dorian's earlier smile. "Lace. She's a friend of mine, and another friend's girl." He looks around, spots Lace and Krem at a table in the corner, and his luck is in because they're currently busy trying to suck each other's tonsils out. "That one right there?"

Dorian glances over and nods. When he turns back, he turns all the way, no longer propped against the bar but now facing Bull directly. His eyes are half-lidded as he teases, "Your friend's girl is cute."

"Yeah," Bull agrees, and his mouth is inexplicably dry. "But she's not you." Which isn't actually a line in this case, and Bull decides he likes that Dorian accepts it as truth without trying to fish for additional compliments.

Somehow the distance between them has vanished, their knees almost touching, and the interest Bull thought he caught a glimpse of earlier is back in force and then some. "So," Dorian says, close enough he has to tip his head back to meet Bull's eye, "about that drink."

Bull manages not to pump his fist or do anything else stupid, but he doesn't bother trying to hold back a smile. There's some kind of subtle stripe in Dorian's shirt, a pattern Bull can't see but can feel when he touches it, and he runs his fingers along that invisible line, down Dorian's arm, listening to the way Dorian's breathing changes.

More than their knees are touching now, and Bull abandons Dorian's shirt to hook two fingers in the front pocket of his jeans. Dorian's hands are hot against his chest before he curls them into fists to pull himself closer. His lips are parted, and his eyes are darker than the dim lighting in the club can account for.

"Or we could skip the drink," Bull murmurs against his mouth.

"I'll try to contain my disappointment," Dorian says, and Bull, who wasn't planning on turning this into a public display, can't stop himself from leaning down that last inch to kiss him.

Dorian pushes up into it and groans, mouth opening eagerly, and the kiss gets out of control fast. Without thinking, Bull turns them so he's got Dorian pinned against the bar, both hands on his ass, sliding one knee between Dorian's thighs. One of Dorian's hands is still fisted in his t-shirt, while the other grips the back of Bull's neck and urges him on. Bull is hard and getting harder, and he's plenty close enough to know Dorian's not complaining.

"Get a room!" Cabot says, right by his ear, and Bull pulls back, breathless.

Rather than looking embarrassed, Dorian is laughing, deep in his chest, and Bull has to force himself to let go. If the sex is as good as that kiss implies it will be, Bull's not sure he's going to survive the experience, and also not sure he cares. The only thing he is sure of is that he's not going to waste this opportunity on a quick blowjob, or on anything other than Dorian, somebody's bed, and five or six hours to explore as many possibilities as he can before his dick gives out.