“I’m just saying,” Alan slumped lower on the bench, clearly attempting to blend in with the dark wood of the pub’s interior, “I’m just… What was I saying?” He peered at Stephen across the table, squinting a little to focus. He was just tipsy enough to make Stephen start applying adjectives like ‘adorable’ and ‘fuckable’, although strictly inside his own mind.
“Dragons,” Stephen supplied, “You were saying something about dragons.” He curled his fingers around his pint – his first and only, and still half-full because God knew someone had to be sober enough to get them both home at the end of the night, and Alan sure didn’t seem to be vying for the privilege.
“That’s right!” Alan perked up, leaning forward now, sprawling over their collection of beermats. “Dragons, man. They get such a bum deal.” He giggled a little, loose and happy in a way that made something constrict in Stephen’s gut. It wasn’t their earlier curry but he was going to pretend very, very hard that it was nothing but early twinges of food poisoning.
“How’s that?” he asked, indulgent and calm – on the outside anyway.
“Well think about it,” Alan said, waving his drink around, the foam sloshing over the rim and sliding wetly over Alan’s fingers, making them glisten. “There you are, hoarding your treasure, nesting in your cave and, okay, maybe terrorising some villagers who probably deserved it anyway and suddenly: BAM!” He smacked a hand against the table, loud enough to make the group of tourists next to them jump and glare. “Some pretentious knight with a big sharp stick comes and kills you. And for what? Trying to prove he’s a big man probably. The twat. Petty. Petty and unfair.” He shook his head mournfully, taking a large gulp.
Despite his inner angst of ‘look but don’t touch’ Stephen couldn’t help but laugh. “Alan Davies,” he declared fondly, “Dragon Defender.”
“Damn straight!” They clinked glasses. “Hey, do you want another?” Alan asked, pawing at his wallet. “My round. You don’t have to go yet, do you?”
“No, I…” Stephen sighed, undone by the hopeful look in Alan’s eyes. “Yeah, okay. Get me another one of these,” he relented, lifting his drink and then downing it quickly. “When you get back I’ll tell you about Jörmungandr, the great sea serpent.”
Alan struggled to his feet, a little unsteady but with eyes sharper than they had any right to be at this point of the evening. “Loki, right?” he asked, grinning and just tipsy enough to forget to hide his sponge-like brains. “Couldn’t keep it in his pants.” He sniggered, weaving toward the bar.
Stephen watched him go, resisting the urge to bang his head against the scarred wood of the table top. He should’ve gone home. It would have been the right choice, the smart choice to make. But Alan’s company was more intoxicating than all the beer in the world and Stephen let himself be stupid for just a little while longer.