The first person Alex saw when he stepped into ‘The Wild Pony’ was, ironically, the one person he’d hoped to avoid tonight. Standing exactly halfway between the front door and the bar was Michael Guerin. Alex’s heart skipped a beat as he remembered the last thing he’d said to Michael and he quickly averted his gaze, hoped the other man wouldn’t notice him.
But the curse of living in a small town and frequenting a bar owned and visited by locals, meant you were often recognized whenever you went inside and tonight was no exception; a small group from the base spotted and greeted him as loudly as possible so Alex couldn’t avoid them and when he looked up at them, to wave and politely say hello, he saw Michael staring at him. Their eyes met and Alex wanted to run to him but the look on his face had Alex fixed to the spot. He’d hurt him and he needed to apologize but now wasn’t the right time especially not in front of his fellow airmen.
Alex gave in and made his way across the bar to join his co-workers briefly as the person he’d arranged to meet hadn’t arrived yet and he didn’t want to just stand awkwardly around waiting, alone with nothing to occupy his thoughts but Michael.
His co-worker offered to buy him a beer but he politely declined as he peered over at Michael who was already onto his second drink since Alex’s arrival at the bar and their eyes met again. Alex’s attention was drawn away from Michael when, over his shoulder, he spotted Kyle.
Knowing that Michael was still watching, Alex put on an over exaggerated smile and waved to Kyle who started towards him, looking a tiny bit confused but shrugged all the same.
Introductions were made all around and Kyle was quick to accept when offered a seat. The sound of breaking glass caught everyone’s attention and they all looked around to see where it had come from.
Michael was by the pool table with a shattered beer bottle at his feet. Alex watched as Maria instantly appeared with a broom which she handed to Michael with an annoyed look on her face. Alex was very surprised to see him sheepishly take the broom from her and then proceed to clean up the broken glass.
Kyle made a pointed comment about Michael that Alex only heard part of but his fellow airmen appeared to agree with him. Alex wanted to push and ask what he’d said but couldn’t, had to pretend he didn’t care what others thought of Michael... it didn’t matter what they believed anyway, they didn’t know him like Alex did.
One drink became two then three before the others took their leave as they had to be on duty in the morning; Alex was grateful it was his day off. They left in quite a loud fashion, leaving Alex alone with Kyle. He peered over his shoulder and saw Michael still by the pool table, talking to two attractive women but his eye line wasn’t looking at either of them, no Alex realized Michael was watching him.
“So why did you want to meet here?” Alex asked Kyle. “It’s a bit public, isn’t it?”
“I wasn’t sure you’d come” Kyle admitted “but I hoped you’d be more comfortable with Maria being here and that”
“You wanted to show off to my friends that I could sit down with the kid who used to bully me?”
“I want to make amends” Kyle insisted. He reached out and placed his hand on top of Alex’s.
“Careful Kyle” Alex scoffed “people might talk”
“I really am sorry for the way I was and how I treated you”
“That was a-“
Alex stopped mid sentence when he saw movement behind Kyle and he realized Michael was flirting with the brunette woman. He faltered for a moment but quickly continued talking.
“That was a long time ago” he finished as he shifted in his seat, tried not to look at Michael but he couldn’t tear his gaze away “things have changed, we’ve grown up, we’re not kids anymore”
He almost choked on the last sentence for Michael now had his arms around the woman.
“You want another drink?” Kyle offered.
“Please” Alex knew he was going to need it now.
But as soon as Kyle left the table, Alex had a completely unobstructed view of Michael’s antics. He was showing the young woman the best way to hold the pool cue by standing close behind her, his arms wrapped around her waist but his face was turned towards Alex.
He knew he shouldn’t care; he’d walked away from Michael, he’d hurt him and had walked away so Michael was free to flirt with whoever he pleased.
But damn it hurt.
Alex had to look away but not before he caught a glimpse of Michael being extra handsy. From across the room he swore he could hear the woman’s playful laughter and he clenched his fist just as Kyle returned to the table with their drinks.
“I see Guerin’s up to his old tricks” Kyle said with a roll of his eyes.
“Old tricks?” Alex forced himself to look at Kyle, not Michael.
“Another night, another woman” he shrugged “he stopped for a while there… think he went off the grid or something, didn’t see him around much then… I don’t know, I wasn’t there but I think something happened at the drive in and he’s been in here every night since”
Alex felt his heart sink; he’d done that. He was the reason Michael was here; he was the one responsible for his pain. He tried to keep himself in check, not let his guilt show.
Kyle peered over his shoulder and noticed the way Michael was staring at them.
“He uh doesn’t usually put on such a… display” Kyle explained before picking up his drink but Alex wasn’t looking at him, he was watching Michael too. Kyle turned again, looked at Michael then his eyes darted to Alex and he finally realized what no one else had seen.
“Well damn” Kyle stated with a small smirk. “You and Guerin?”
Alex nervously knocked over his glass but quickly caught it before it could roll off the table. His eyes were wide with fear as he stammered to say anything to throw him off but Kyle was still smiling at him.
“Is that what all this” he pointed over his shoulder “is about? Is he trying to get to you?”
“Well it’s working” Alex confessed as his shoulders slumped in defeat “but I deserve it. I ended it with him because I let my dad get in my head… it’s why I was up at the cabin actually; I needed to get away from him and...”
The words hung in the air between them. Kyle had assumed Alex had been staying at the cabin to avoid his father, he had no idea he’d been nursing a broken heart. He raised his glass and took a sip, his mind replaying events from high school in an entirely new light and Kyle merely smirked.
“I don’t think Michael is too happy seeing us together right now” he said to Alex. “He knows I was a jerk to you at school”
“That display over there has nothing to do with you in high school” Alex replied.
“So the two of you were… even back then?”
“It started and ended back then or so I thought… But seeing him again after all this time, it stirred up some old feelings”
Alex trailed off again, remembering the nights recently spent in Michael’s bed. He hated the way things had ended between them, hated that Michael was blatantly flirting with an attractive girl right in front of him, hated that he wasn’t brave enough to march right over there and just kiss him. He hated that he could see Michael’s strong hands caressing the waist of someone who wasn’t him; his eyes met Michael’s and, while still holding Alex’s gaze, Michael started to playfully kiss the woman’s neck.
His eyes glazed as he forced himself to hold back tears. Michael wanted a reaction from him and if Alex didn’t hold himself, he was likely to get one. His attention shifted when he felt Kyle’s hand on his again and his eyes moved to meet his gaze instead. There was a kindness there that Alex hadn’t seen from him in a long time.
“Don’t let him get to you” Kyle’s words gave him the boost he needed.
“It’s hard not to” Alex confessed.
“Are you, like, in love with him?”
Alex couldn’t say it aloud though so he simply nodded his head yes.
“And does he…?” Kyle didn’t finish the question but saw Alex give a half shrug.
“Let’s find out then”
Kyle was quick to slide himself closer to Alex; he leaned in real close and whispered something nonsensical in his ear.
From across the bar, Michael’s grip tightened on the woman and she appeared to flinch away.
“Kyle, what are you doing?” Alex asked him.
“Turning the tables” he explained “let’s see if we can’t make him a little jealous”
Kyle moved again so he was blocking their view of each other; he held Alex’s gaze and assured him that from this angle it would look to Michael like Kyle was kissing Alex.
The glasses on the table in front of them both shattered. Kyle laughed as he pulled away, Alex looked beyond confused which made Kyle stop and think. Did Alex know that Michael was an alien? He seemed surprised at the breaking glass but maybe it was that he didn’t expect Michael to use his powers in public.
“I’m sorry, Kyle” Alex said with a sadness in his eyes “I get what you’re trying to do but it’s not going to work; thanks anyway”
“I’m going to call it a night”
“Thank you for getting me out for a bit” he paused “wasn’t there something you wanted to talk to me about?”
“It can wait… I don’t think you’re in the right headspace for it”
“Same time next week then?”
“Sounds like a plan”
Alex grabbed his crutch and climbed to his feet.
“See you around, Kyle” Alex said to him.
Trying his best not to look at Michael, Alex made his way to the exit. He reached into his pocket for his keys as he tried to decide if he was sober enough to drive. The keys slipped from his hand and he cursed to himself.
Before he could kneel down to pick them up, another hand appeared and collected them. He knew who it was without looking, he’d recognize those hands anywhere. A shiver passed over him as he remembered what it was like to feel those fingers on his lower back.
“You sure you’re okay to drive?” Michael asked him.
“I’m fine” Alex didn’t mean to snap.
Michael held the keys out, waited for Alex to reach for them. Their fingers brushed as Alex took them from his grasp.
“I think your date is waiting for you” Alex nodded back towards the bar.
“She can wait a bit longer”
“Yeah, I’m sure she can”
But the words lingered in the air; Michael had every intention of going back inside, back to the mystery brunette… not staying here with Alex.
“Really, Alex?” Michael sounded hurt. “Of all the guys in this town, Kyle?”
“He wants to make amends”
“And you’re going to let him?”
“I don’t see how that’s any of your business”
“Fine” Michael threw up his hands in defeat “fine”
Alex unlocked the door and climbed into the car. Michael simply stood there, watching him. Their eyes met, briefly, until Alex looked away. He started the car and immediately pulled out of the spot.
When he reached the exit of the parking lot, Alex looked up and into the rear view mirror. Michael was still standing there, watching him drive away.
They both knew everything wasn’t fine.