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Time isn’t linear and neither is my heartbeat

Chapter Text

The music was at a gentle volume when Matt entered the pub in Holborn.  Unlike most other places he’d investigated, this bar didn’t seem to be overrun with loud tourists snapping pics all over the place, or tired office workers slumped over every available surface.  Sure it had kitschy wooden floors that echoed the tap of Matt’s cane, but the wood felt genuinely old and warped with the passage of time.  Matt’s ears caught a whispered conversation from behind the serving area.  He stilled and  fiddled with his cane as he listened without being too obvious.


“If you’re late one more time, you’re out on your ear.  I was doing you a favour just hiring you!”


“It won’t happen again, I swear Mister Robertson.”


“All you Yanks are the same.  You think the world runs on your  schedule, but the lot of you are just stupid and lazy.”  The older man stormed off in a huff.


Matt started walking again.  Someone moved a low chair out of Matt’s path as he made his way to the serving area.  The sound of concern in their voice went unheeded: Matt could easily make his way past bigger obstacles than that.


Matt could spot a married man on the prowl from fifty paces.  The bartender was definitely taken, but still interested: the constant rubbing of the unadorned ring finger, the intense heat emanating from their skin when he faced Matt’s way, the nervous sweat beading on their brow were dead giveaways.  


“What can I get you?”  There was a slight hesitation that meant the other man had spotted Matt’s cane.  “If you take a seat I can bring it over to you.”


“I can manage, thanks.”  Matt hopped up on to one of the bar stools.  “I’ll take a light German beer. Any brand you think is good.”


“Haven’t seen you around here before, friend.”  The man smelled of laundry detergent.  He’d cleaned his clothes just before turning up at his job.  He placed the opened bottle and a glass directly in front of Matt.  Their fingers brushed lightly as Matt picked up his beer.


“I just arrived in London. My buddy said this was a friendly bar to try.”


“You here for work or pleasure?  Cos I gotta tell you, there are nicer parts to visit if you want a good time.  You should try Greenwich or Richmond; you’ll think you’re in the countryside.”


Matt took in the flush of blood to the bartender’s face.  Definitely flirting then.  Matt wasn’t usually into married people - too much drama, and the Catholic guilt at potentially splitting couples apart was a big factor as well.  However, this man was intriguing for many different reasons and he had put Matt at ease surprisingly fast.

“I’m here for work.”


“Whatcha do?  Nah, let me guess.  You’re a model for men’s sunglasses.”


Matt stifled a laugh.  “Well I’ve never been told that one before.  I’m a legal secretary, boring stuff but it pays the bills, you know how it goes.  But I’m on extended leave, and since the Brits seem to dig my accent, I might stay even longer.”


The other man laughed.  “Hey, I’ve been living here for years and I’ve never lost mine.  Maybe there’s hope for me yet.”


“What state are you from?”


“Oh I’ve lived in most of them. I’m real flexible.”  Those words were said in a highly suggestive manner.  “The name’s Marc by the way.”


“Is your wife American too, Marc?”  Matt grinned as the bartender stilled.  The air around them seemed to suddenly freeze until Marc took a breath.


“We’re separated.”  The words were bitten out.


“Oh I’m sorry.”  Matt felt suddenly at a loss.  This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. He always let the potential guy know that he was already aware of somebody waiting for them at home. Levelling the playing field and all that shit.


“No problem,” Marc said slowly.  “She’s from Egypt. She’s back there right now with the rest of her family.  You got good instinct for a blind man though.”  Marc started to step away.  The music suddenly changed to something upbeat - a jazz tune that was made for dancing.  Matt resisted the urge to tap his feet at the rhythm, choosing to keep his attention on fixing the disastrous conversation.


“Hey, I’ve been there. Not Egypt,” he quickly corrected himself, “But the whole separation deal.  I went through a nasty one a while back.”  Matt tried not to think of long hair and perfumed kisses.  “Listen, I was out of line assuming things about you.  Let me buy you a drink?”


Marc eyed him up and down in a swift movement.  “We’re not supposed to accept drinks, but maybe you can make it up to me later…”


“Hey!”  A young and very drunk patron leaned over and waved his hand in front of Matt’s face.  The smell of vodka was strong, mixed with sour breath.  “You really blind or are you faking it?”


“Take a hike, buddy,” Marc seethed.  “Keep hassling people and I’ll kick you out myself.”


The other man didn’t seem put off in the slightest.  “He’s probably some benefit scrounger, living it up on my taxes.  They’re all over TikTok you know?  Laughing it up at how they screw over the rest of us!”  He made a grab for Matt’s cane, but Matt twisted the hand away and slammed the man’s face against one of the bar stools.  He fell to the ground in a crumpled heap.  A sound of collective amazement echoed throughout the pub, rising above the music.


“How did you do that?”  Marc asked with whispered surprise.  


Matt only grinned at the other man and took another sip of his beer