Every night, like clockwork, he finds himself down at the bar having a single glass of beer. It’s been a routine of his for so long that everybody practically knows him by now. Mostly because he’s a bus driver for the town and partly because of his oddly bizarre name. Whenever he introduces himself, the mention of his name being the same as the town always manages to get an amused chuckle out of people. He supposes it serves as a good ice breaker.
He mostly just passes the time by talking to Doc, the bartender and owner. They talk about Doc’s Wall of Fame, discussing whose picture to add next and whether or not they were born in their hometown. He enjoys Doc’s company and his vast knowledge of their quaint little town. Often he surprises Doc with his own little tidbits of trivia.
Some nights they're accompanied by Marie and her ex Everett. Most of the time it’s just the two of them arguing. Everett is an actor and he can get quite dramatic on occasion, going so far as to get down on his knees and plead for Marie to take him back or he’ll do something drastic. He never takes the hint, of course, even after Marie tells him time and time again that she wants nothing more to do with him. It can be amusing sometimes to see Everett acting up a storm, but most of the time it’s just sad.
He isn’t sure what started this nightly ritual of his, but it’s become so ingrained into his life that he can’t really see himself anywhere else at this time of night. Maybe it was a much needed escape from his life at home. A distraction from the routine and responsibilities of his mundane world. The more interesting nights are Thursday and the reason for that promptly walks in through the door at exactly eight o’clock.
“Hey, Doc! I'm gonna need a shot of Bourbon and keep ‘em coming,” the patron in question announces as he breezes in through the door to make his grand entrance.
He goes by his last name, Hux, and he’s not originally from America. He’s a redhead with a nice sounding accent and has a grandiose aura about him that is oddly fitting given his rather posh appearance. He’s spoken to Hux on a few separate occasions, at least enough times to be well acquainted with each other. Hux can be dramatic as well in the way he parades himself around and pulls the scarf from his neck in a huff. Perhaps he takes acting classes with Everett. After all, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise.
Hux makes his way over to the barstools at the counter and takes a seat next to the bus driver, throwing down his scarf in the process. Doc turns around to collect a fresh shot glass and his best brand of bourbon and pours it in front the redhead. Hux downs it almost immediately and signals Doc to pour another. It’s by his third shot when he notices the man next to him idly sipping on his glass of beer.
“Oh, hey Paterson,” Hux greets, smirking faintly when the bus driver acknowledges him with a courteous nod. “Out walking the dog again? I thought I recognized Marvin sitting outside. You think that’s safe to leave him all alone?”
“I haven’t had any problems yet,” Paterson reveals, taking a drink from his glass as he regards Hux with a casual sweep of his eyes. “Plus, I usually only stay until I finish my beer.”
Hux glances down at the beer in question, taking into account how much of the amber liquid is left and frowns marginally.
“That’s a shame,” Hux sighs, downing another shot. He gazes over at Paterson with a hooded, slightly dizzying expression as the bourbon hits him. “And here I was hoping you would keep me company.”
Hux turns back to Doc, who’s currently chatting up a lady at the other end of the bar, and calls out to the man.
“I'm gonna need another for my friend here,” Hux asserts, getting Doc to come back over to them.
“No, that really isn’t necessary,” Paterson starts to gush, though tickled by the gesture.
“Nonsense, you look like you need it more than I do,” Hux insists, gesturing comically towards Paterson’s mostly empty glass for Doc to fill it up again.
“I really can’t,” Paterson says with a blush.
“Just stay for one more, please?” Hux begs, reaching out to Paterson to lay his hands on his forearm tenderly.
Paterson stares down at where the redhead clings to him, clearly buzzed and pink in the face from the alcohol, and offers up a shy smile. He looks to Doc who is standing there expectantly, as if waiting for a verdict. Hux bats his lashes slightly, a move that has probably undone a great number of people in the past, and Paterson can’t help but cave under the pressure.
“I guess one more couldn’t hurt,” Paterson relents with that goofy grin of his.
“That’s what I like to hear!” Hux boasts with enthusiasm, patting on Paterson’s shoulder affectionately. He nods over at Doc. “You heard the man. Give Pat here another round. On me.”
“That’s really kind of you,” Paterson thanks, noticing the way Hux’s hand slides down his bicep and lingers slightly thereafter.
“Don’t mention it. After the day I had…” Hux shakes his head and smirks to himself as his palm covers half of his face. “Just need someone to talk to.”
“That bad, huh?” Paterson inquires, sounding concerned.
Hux let go of Paterson and returned to his bourbon, sipping it this time to pace himself a little. Paterson always admires how handsome Hux is. His pale fair skin, fiery hair, and piercing blue eyes… It was the type of beauty Paterson could write poetry about in his secret notebook, as his wife calls it. Maybe he’ll get around to writing something about him one day.
“Bad is putting it lightly,” Hux divulges with a soft chuckle. “I had a terrible day at work. My boyfriend broke up with me by text on my lunch break and on top of that my car took a shit on me.”
“Hmm…” Paterson hums thoughtfully, thinking of what he could possibly say to lighten the mood. He glances over at Hux bashfully. “Well, I am a bus driver, you know. I could always give you a ride to work for the time being. You’ll still have to pay the fare though,” he offers, bringing out a smile on Hux’s face. “Wish I knew how to help out with your other problem, but it’s the best I can do.”
“You’re already helping me out just by being here, Paterson,” Hux promises, laying a hand on the other man’s thigh. “Thank you for staying.”
“How could I pass up a free drink?” Paterson humors, trying to sound casual as Hux’s hand lingers on his leg.
“Now your true colors come out,” Hux hums in amusement. His smile falters a little and his hand leaves Paterson’s thigh sluggishly. “I suppose luring you in with alcohol was a dirty move just so I could cry on your shoulder. I just feel like you’d actually listen.”
“Well, I'm all ears. I mean, as if you couldn’t tell that already,” Paterson quips, referring to his larger than normal ears, and getting Hux to smile again.
“Oh, shut up,” Hux giggles, feeling giddy and light headed from bourbon as he slaps Paterson on his thigh again. He barely notices how he curls his hand in towards Paterson’s lap. “I like your big ears.”
Paterson’s breath catches in his throat, becoming stuck as Hux gets a tad overzealous and squeezes his leg tenderly. Paterson is a married man with a wife waiting for him at home right now and here he was encouraging a buzzed, recently dumped man to flirt with him. The worst part about it was that Paterson was actually enjoying the attention. He regards his beer with a sweeping gaze and smiles to himself.
“You’re probably the only person willing to admit that,” Paterson points out with chuckle. He doesn’t bother to brush Hux’s creeping hand away.
“That’s because I'm not a coward,” Hux proclaims, then mutters, “Not like that jerk, Poe…”
“What happened between you two anyway? If you don’t mind me asking,” Paterson inquires, pausing to take a gulp of beer.
“He cheated on me with some other guy and didn’t have the balls to say it to my face,” Hux admonishes, polishing off the rest of his bourbon in one fell swoop.
He doesn’t order another drink afterwards this time. Hux just glances to Paterson with a solemn, heavy lidded expression that looks equal parts infuriated and hurt. It’s the type of emotion that usually warrants angry tears and Paterson thinks for a second Hux might actually break down and cry. His bright eyes are glazed over slightly, fighting back tears as Hux tries to compose himself.
“The bastard didn’t even grant me the decency of letting me break up with him first,” Hux whinges on. “Just kicked me to the curb like the past year never happened.”
He sighs heavily and leans against the counter with a hand cupping one side of his face as he stares resolutely at the other end of the bar, past Paterson to stare at a happy couple. Hux’s fingertips edge up into his hair slightly and he drags his hand through it, messing up the the product that kept it slicked down. His hair falls in his eyes a little and he lets out a sigh as if that action in itself felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of him.
“Do you have any idea what that feels like?” Hux asks, glancing over at Paterson with a hopeful quirk of his eyebrows.
“Can’t say that I do,” Paterson admits, taking a drink to occupy himself when their eyes meet.
“No, I guess not. I always forget you’re married,” Hux reminds himself with a huff. He sits up straight, grabbing onto Paterson as the headrush makes him swoon slightly. “I wonder what that must feel like.”
“It’s like waking up next to your best friend every morning and choosing to ignore all the little things that bug you about them, because there’s so much more to love instead,” Paterson explains, wording it the best he can. Somehow it always sounds so dumb in his head.
“Wow,” Hux breathes out, staring at Paterson with a dreamy gaze. “You should write poetry.”
“I do,” Paterson confesses with shy grin.
“A bus driver poet,” Hux remarks with a hint of mirth. A wry smile playing about his lips. “That’s oddly beautiful in it’s own way. Are you always so articulate with words?”
“Only with pen and paper,” Paterson jests, getting Hux to swoon further into his personal bubble. Paterson doesn't mind the invasion, though. It’s nice to see Hux smiling and laughing rather than being upset over a bad day.
“I’d love to read something of yours one day,” Hux vows, turning fully towards Paterson now as he clings to his arm. “When I'm more sober, of course. I usually don’t drink so much.”
“You needed it tonight,” Paterson sympathizes.
“It also helped that you were here to cheer me up,” Hux comments, rubbing at Paterson’s arm affectionately before deciding to let go. “But I should let you go back home to your wife and dog. I've kept you here long enough.”
“Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” Paterson inquires as his brows pull together with a hint of concern.
“Don’t worry about me. I always bounce back,” Hux assures, waving off Paterson’s worry with a casual sweep of his hand. “Besides, I got Doc over here to look after me.”
“Well, I come here every night around the same time. If you ever need someone to talk to…” Paterson trails off, letting Hux piece together what he was offering. “Next round is on me.”
“I’ll have to take you up on that,” Hux concurs, eyes shimmering in the low light of the dimly lit bar. He signals Doc over again as Paterson gets up from his barstool and downs the rest of his beer. “I'll be seeing you, Paterson.”
“You stay safe, Hux,” Paterson replies, excusing himself from the counter and making his way out the door.
Paterson steps out of the stuffy little bar and out into the cool night air of their quaint little town of Paterson, New Jersey and breathes in deeply. He looks down at where he left Marvin tied up to the pipe connected to the building and regards the bulldog with an irritated sweep of his eyes. Marvin’s laying down on the ground, staring up at Paterson as he makes his usual grumbling noises whenever the man is around. It’s almost as if Marvin hates Paterson just as much as Paterson hates Marvin.
“Alright, let’s go home,” Paterson announces as he goes to untie Marvin’s leash.
The bulldog springs up to his feet, panting a little as Paterson tries to situate his grip on the leash before the little pest can start tugging on it. Paterson’s about to pull the dog along when he spins around and nearly collides with the redhead from the bar. Hux practically burst through the door as if he was in a hurry to catch up with the bus driver. Paterson jumps slightly, prompting Marvin to bark shortly as Hux seems to catch his breath. Paterson reaches a hand out to help steady Hux incase the man might fall over with how much he’s had to drink.
“Hux, are you okay?” Paterson asks, flustered.
“I just wanted to say thank you again, Paterson. For being there,” Hux clarifies, gripping onto one of Paterson’s shoulders as he takes a step closer. “You don’t know how much that means to me.”
“Really, it was nothing. You’d do the same for me,” Paterson brushes off in modesty.
“I know, but… I just thought you should know that,” Hux insists. He takes a chance and leans up to Paterson’s face a little and gives him a kiss on the cheek. He pulls away, cheeks looking ruddy as a blush blooms across Paterson’s face. “You’re a great guy, Paterson. Never change.”
Hux pats the bus driver on the shoulder tenderly before offering up a dreamy smile and staggering back into the bar. Paterson stands there for a moment longer, frozen in place as Marvin tugs and yips. His cheek feels hot from where Hux had kissed him and he brings his hand up to lay his palm over it. His face is flushed and there’s a smile spreading across it as his brain articulates what just happened.
Paterson walks Marvin home with the same dumb grin on his face until he opens up the door and lets Marvin off the leash to scamper off towards the kitchen. He sets his keys down on the end table near the door and hangs up his jacket on the coat hook and makes his way to the bedroom. Laura is already in bed, quietly settled in with a new book she recently started. Paterson changes out of his clothes and slips on a tee shirt before sliding into bed next to his wife.
Laura finishes up the page she’s on before marking her place and setting the book aside on the night stand. She flicks off the lamp and curls up next to her husband who smells faintly of beer. A smell she says she likes for some strange reason. He wraps an arm around her as she clings to him for warmth, nestling into his side like a cat. He idly rubs his hand up and down her arm to coax in some more warmth.
“How was your walk?” Laura asks him after a few brief moments, sounding drowsy and on the verge of passing out.
Paterson stares up at the ceiling, acknowledging the fact that his cheek still feels much warmer than having Laura snuggled up next to him. The thought alone makes his stomach twist with guilt, but it’s there now and Paterson can’t get the image of Hux out of his head. His blue eyes, pale skin, red hair… He can’t help but smile.
“It was nice,” Paterson says simply. “Really nice.”