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an airman and a lousy wingman walk into a bar

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Alex was pretty sure Kyle Valenti was losing his damn mind.

It started innocently enough. Kyle had shown up at the cabin with a sixer and movies, sitting close on the couch while they watched. Then movie nights turned into drinking at the Wild Pony after work. It wasn’t even that Kyle kept finding reasons to hang out. It was that he kept touching Alex every chance he got.

A friendly arm draped over his shoulder, or a loose hand clasped on his nape. Even tight hugs that had started out awkward, but eventually became just a way that Kyle bid him hello or goodbye.

If Alex wasn’t 100% sure that Kyle was a Certified Grade A Heterosexual, he’d think Kyle was trying to date him. But since he didn’t doubt his certainty on that front, he figured Kyle was simply a couple planes short a squadron. That or he had been replaced by a pod person.

Alex was exploring that thought Friday night at the Wild Pony where Kyle was once more making like a squid. He had one arm slung over the booth behind Alex and was practically plastered to his side.

It was a testament to how much Kyle had become what Maria would annoyingly dub a ‘cuddle monster’ that Alex didn’t flinch. He was used to being tactile around his female friends, but it wasn’t like he grew up with a lot of male physical affection. Or any male physical affection for that matter.

Besides, it was nice having his childhood best friend back. Kyle wasn’t the same person he was when they were ten, but neither was he. Somehow they had come full circle and were back on the same wavelength.

Even if Kyle was acting completely fucking weird.

Alex took a swig of his beer, his fourth one, not that anyone was counting, and wondered how to bring it up without making things uncomfortable.

Speaking of uncomfortable, he should probably suggest other ways to spend their time. Judging by the the tight waist of his jeans, he was pretty sure he was getting a beer belly.

“Okay, so Noah. I know he’s married but you’d totally tap that right?” Kyle asked out of nowhere as he munched on a fry.

Alex spluttered and had to grab a couple of napkins to keep beer from dribbling down his chin. “What?”

“I’m just saying, that jawline can cut glass.”

Shit. His dad was right. Kyle really had been abducted by aliens.

Alex stared, making sure Kyle hadn’t sprouted green antennae since he last checked. Nope. No antennae. Yet.

“I don’t think Isobel would want us talking about her husband that way,” he finally said, taking a proper drink from his beer this time.

“Isobel would probably want to join the conversation, dude. She’d go TMI on us.” Kyle laughed, loud and boisterous. It made Alex smile, remembering the trouble they had gotten into as kids and Kyle’s explosive joy whenever they got away with it.

Maybe possibly-abducted-by-an-alien Kyle wasn’t so bad.

“Fair enough,” Alex conceded with a chuckle. “And, yes, Noah is a looker but he isn’t exactly my type.”

“Not my type either, but doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate what he’s got. I’ve seen him in the gym a couple of times.”

Kyle pushed the basket of fries towards Alex which he refused with a groan. Going to the gym wouldn’t be a bad idea. He leaned against Kyle as he dragged his phone from his pocket and dropped it on the table. The damn thing was digging into his theoretical beer belly.

“I’m sure to inform Isobel you’ve been ogling her husband,” he teased carefully and was relieved when Kyle just laughed again in response.

In the next second though, the laughter in Kyle’s face faded into a scowl. “What is Guerin’s deal? He’s been staring at us since he got here.”

Alex looked up and was surprised to see Michael was now sitting at the bar, glaring openly.

Their eyes locked across the room and Alex felt a familiar heat coiling in his gut. Michael’s eyes were a glowing furnace, twisting inside Alex and taking hold. A breath caught in his chest and Alex was once again falling through a trapdoor where every cell in his body was burning with the need to be close.

Since his father had left town and Isobel was back home they’d been in a good place. Not exactly hooking up, but trying to get to know each other again. They’d even gone out to dinner a couple of times. After all that, Michael’s plotting-murder face was understandably concerning.

He placed his hand on his phone, intending to text Michael to ask what the hell was going on, but before he could, Michael was stalking towards them and Alex couldn’t tear his eyes away.

It was like watching a bobcat in the wild. Beautiful and dangerous. Michael’s lips were pressed into a thin line, strong jaw working as he clenched and unclenched his teeth. The ripple of his muscles under his threadbare shirt was obvious even in the bar light.

Alex wanted to lick him all over.

“So, you and Valenti?” Michael gestured at Kyle when he reached them, his biceps bunching underneath his sleeve. Alex’s mouth watered as he mind filled with other activities that would cause that to happen and wow he probably had too much to drink.

It took another beat before Alex realized what Michael was implying.

Wait. What?

He was about to refute that incredibly wrong assumption when Kyle straightened and glared right back at Michael. “What if we are, Guerin? Nothing wrong with that.”

Then, because Kyle had definitely lost his fucking mind, he covered Alex’s hand with his.

Alex stared at Kyle’s hand, then back at Kyle’s determined face.

What. The. Fuck.

Michael growled, actually growled. Alex raised his eyebrows, his attention back on Michael. He wasn’t sure if he was just drunk or that was genuinely a turn on for him.

Alex had to force himself to focus on the words he was saying as Michael took a deep breath, his t-shirt straining against his chest.

“Finally found someone worthy of the great war hero. Congratulations,” Michael spat out.

Alex stared into his eyes and saw fury so incandescent it took his breath away. Michael blinked, then blinked again and in that millisecond between them, Alex saw raw, vulnerable pain.

It sobered him up faster than any cup of coffee could.

“Guerin—”

But then Michael was gone, leaving Alex feeling like he had been dropped into an alternate universe.

Slowly, he turned towards Kyle. “Why do you want Guerin to think we’re dating?” he asked calmly.

He was too confused to be angry because, again, what the fuck?

“I don’t,” Kyle replied, nostrils flaring. “I’m just saying that if we were dating then he shouldn’t have a problem with it. He’s an adult. He should grow up and stop being a homophobic dick.”

“Right.” Alex replied, drawing out the word. Then, because he was an idiot who still needed to relearn Kyle’s special brand of idiocy, he finally realized what was going on. “This is your backwards way of making up for high school isn’t it?”

Sheepish, Kyle shrugged. “Yeah. You’re a catch, dude. Anyone would be lucky to be dating you.”

“Thank you?” God, this was borderline hysterical if it wasn’t for the fact that Michael actually thought he was shitty enough to date someone right in front of him. He’d have to deal with that in a second. First, Kyle.

Alex chewed on his lower lip and then decided fuck it. If Kyle was trying, then it was only fair Alex tried too. “I don’t think Guerin has a problem with me dating guys. I think he has a problem with me dating anyone that isn’t him.”

Kyle’s eyes widened, his self-righteous anger making way for embarrassed clarity. “Ohhhhh. Really?”

“Really.”

“Did I just fuck that up for you?”

Alex had to laugh at the sincere worry on Kyle’s face. “Nah.”

At least, Alex really, really hoped not.

“Good. He’d better treat you right or I’ll beat his ass.”

“I’m pretty sure I can take on both of you even without my prosthetic.”

“Fair.”

“Kyle?”

“Yeah?”

“You can let my hand go now.”

Kyle looked at where his hand was still on top of Alex’s and laughed. “I don’t know, man. You have really nice hands for a guy.”

“You fucking suck as wingman,” he nudged at Kyle with his shoulder. “But a good friend.”

Grinning widely, Kyle finally let go of his hand. “Go clear things up with your beau. He’s probably waiting to jump me in a dark alley.”

Shoving Kyle away with a smile, Alex picked up his phone to message Michael.

His heart clenched in his chest when he remembered the hurt in Michael’s eyes, but he promised himself he’d make up for it.

It was time they had a talk anyway.