He starts off a little confused when Mason swings his legs around and drops into the barstool next to him, his date seemingly left behind.
“Where did your… openly bi…sexual date go?”
“Eh, we didn’t really hit it off. I don’t always ask people out to hook-up.”
Jack nods at that, relating, before taking a sip of his beer. He’ll probably hang around until Eddie’s closed up so he can go upstairs without worrying if anyone will follow.
“Jack, can I ask you a question?” Mason asks, with the premise and tone of a question that is meant to be more of a challenge. Jack sits up a little, holding his beer tighter. It’s been a strange day even if Paul was returned to his loved-one and Roland did end up bonding with him.
“Is it about being straight?” He grins with his usual sarcastic and devilish charm.
“No, it’s about being bi.” Jack sighs in awe, reaching out a hand to cup it over Mason’s shoulder.
“I am so happy you feel comfortable in coming to me about this. Seriously, I’m your ally, my friend.”
“Yeah, no, Jack, I’m talking about if maybe… someone… okay, let’s just say… a forty…?” Mason pauses to eye up Jack; he rolls his eyes in response but nods for him to continue, “A forty-year-old guy who maybe… enjoys male attention at the gym or… has had relations with guys in the past or… has a preference for women but is also interested in men… is maybe bi?”
Jack laughs, of course, his shoulders hunching over and his head shaking.
“Hahaha, why would you say that?”
Mason wrestles his hands with the air a little before turning further on his stool to face him.
“Okay, well, let’s just say that someone like that might maybe… not feel comfortable in defining their sexuality or… feels like it’s too late to… or just… maybe needs their own ally?"
“Hahaha, you’re not suggesting I need one, are you?” Jack’s still grinning, his façade yet to fade. Not that it’s a façade, of course, he’s just laughing because it’s funny. That Mason would suggest such a thing. About him. Jack Gordon. Not that being bisexual or of any other sexual orientation but straight is funny… it’s just the idea of him, himself, being anything other than what he knows himself to be.
“No, not all, I would never pressure someone into feeling like they need anything or want anything but… if they did, ever, at any point in their life… I would be there for them.”
Jack grips onto his beer again before tilting his neck to take a deep glug and swallow. Once the bottle is empty he faces Mason again.
“Well, I’m sure whoever needs you, will appreciate it.”
Mason waits a beat, watching Jack. He wasn’t going to say anything because putting someone on the spot isn’t always the wisest of choices but there’s always the chance of helping someone and so far since he returned, Jack’s helped him. Jack’s shown him that life is too short, you have to get out there and experience life and take yourself on adventures - take yourself on adventures with people you enjoy being with. If he can help Jack realise that life is better that way and that literally everyone in their circle of friends is there for him, he’s open to taking the chance. He’s open to giving something back.
“Look, Jack… I look up to you, right? Some of the stuff you’ve done… so totally awesome and if I had someone like you to follow from example a few years ago, I would have done anything to have you there. I remember when I was going through some hard times and someone close to me came out, it was so relieving and I got real excited for them, you know? And just… some of the things you’ve said and… people you’ve apparently done, well… I just wondered, man.”
Jack doesn’t say anything. His grin has morphed into a twisted pout and his fingers have started to drum on the counter top. He’s eyeing up Eddie too, where he’s wiping down the counter at the other end of the bar. He’s gritting his teeth now too and his knee is jumping up and down where he’s resting his foot on one of the metal bars of his stool. Mason bobs his head, ready to stand and leave him with a lingering thought and supportive pat on the back but then Jack turns and leans in, trapping him in position. Jack drops his voice so only Mason can hear it in earshot.
“Just… don’t tell anyone. Not that this means anything but… please, don’t.”
Mason nods as Jack backs away slightly, before leaning in again, his right arm going for Jack’s shoulder. Jack leans back though, his face scrunched up in discomfort.
“Maybe not? After that conversation? Yeah, okay.” He pushes him away with a hand and Mason carries on nodding, humming in agreement under his breath before finally walking away towards the main door. The last thing he sees as he turns his head of his shoulder is Jack with his hands up to his face.
He’s whispering into them, talking to himself whilst Eddie’s not there to notice, or many other people for that matter, there are only two or three late night stragglers dotted around in separate booths.
"Did I really just do that? Did I really just do that? Did I really just do that? Did I really just do that?”
“You okay there, Jack?” He immediately drops his hands, readjusting himself in his seat because apparently Eddie is stealthier than he seems or his magic lessons are really starting to pay off.
“Hmm? Yup! Yeah, yes.”
And he is. He’s fine because Mason might be right on some level, it didn’t strike any chords too hard. This isn’t the first time he’s thought about it which means it isn’t confirming anything new or confirming anything for that matter. Mason is right about something; there’s no need to confirm anything or actually define what that something is because maybe it’s not true at all. Maybe everyone has these thoughts.
Maybe Swedish hikers really are all beautiful; it doesn’t mean anything in particular. Brooke even told him herself that she had wild nights when she was in her sorority. It doesn’t have to have a meaning, even if it did. Even if he felt lonely on the last night of that European hike because they’d left him and gone off on a different track; even if he still has a number from one of the guys at his gym in his wallet, only really untouched because he’s still not quite ready after Rachel moved on.
Adding her into the mix makes it even more confusing. And Jessie too. The only serious relationships he’s had have been with women and that’s why he’s always blocked out other ideas. He can’t be anything but, if that’s all he’s had for longer than one night; surely? He finds himself wanting Mason back, just to ask, in case that’s the missing piece of what has now, in the past five minutes of thinking over past experiences, become a very confusing puzzle.
Maybe he’s just never given himself the time to think it all through because he’s never had anyone there to clear up his head. Maybe Mason’s right; maybe he does need someone. Maybe he wouldn’t feel so confused.
He pulls out his phone from his back pocket as Eddie wishes his last customers goodnight, technically forcing them out the door with his hand on their backs. He texts Mason a thank you, chewing on his lip before finally pressing send. And then he finds his wallet in his jacket pocket and he slides out the torn piece of tissue paper with a number written in faded biro blue. He doesn’t add the number to his phone; he just moves it a little closer to the front in the line of empty card slots.
There’s a cutting of a photo booth strips in one of them too - he and Rachel squashed into a boxed off seat which was on the side of the street a month ago, her nose pressed against his cheek. He takes it out and tucks it where the number was, not quite ready to let go.