The Bartender

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Chapter Nineteen

I woke up probably a few hours later, unsure of where I was, again. I was not in the same bed I was when I last woke up, I realized. The room was also dark so I tried to let my eyes adjust for a few minutes.

I still couldn’t place where I was and I began to panic. Had I got drunk? Did I black out after having an episode? I looked at my wrists in shock, but I let out a sigh of relief when I touched them with my fingers and realized that I hadn’t cut too deep. So, I hadn’t tried to kill myself.

That was great, right?

It took me a few moments to recall the events of my day. I remembered taking some pills, but that was normal. What was not normal was that I had told someone about them, and said person was Brian.

Brian?

Why the hell would I tell Brian about my problems?

“Brian?” I called. Was he here? Had he left me behind at the club? I wasn’t sure.

“Stop shouting” his groggy voice murmured and I turned to right. He wasn’t beside me on the bed so I looked down and there he was, lying on the floor. “I’m right here” he groaned as he sat up.

“Um, okay” I muttered. “What are you doing on the floor?”

“Sleeping. What did you think?” he asked and I assumed he rolled his eyes but I couldn’t really see him. “When did you get up?”

“Just a few minutes ago” I answered and he sighed. When he didn’t say anything, I asked, “Where are we?”

“My room. At home” he stated and I felt the bed shift as he got up. He groaned again.

“Okay” I nodded. But if we were here, why was I in his room, on his bed, and not with Kyle? “Why... Why am I here?” I asked.

“You weren’t feeling well, I got a doctor to help you out, you fell asleep again and I brought you home” he answered just when the lights came on.

I closed my eyes and opened them again to adjust to the light again. I turned to look at Brian. He was standing by the closet in a boxer shorts and a t-shirt. I don’t know why my face fell at that, disappointment clouding me.

“Why did you sleep on the floor then?” I asked, because it was strange. Why would he let me sleep in his bed whiles he slept on the floor?

“I told you. I don’t sleep here. But you looked like you needed company, so” he shrugged.

That’s why, I guess. Somehow, it still didn’t help sooth my mind. I didn’t know why but something was very off with how he was acting. I sighed and got up from the bed too.

“I... I know this is a lot to ask, but can you take me home?” I asked. I’d much rather be there than here if I was being honest. I didn’t do well with tension. I felt uncomfortable. Something was wrong, and the worst part was, I didn’t know what it was.

At home, I knew exactly what was happening so I could avoid it, but here?

“Sure” he answered. I sighed.

In a few minutes, Brian had dressed in a pair of sweat pants and a shirt, and was leading me out of the house to his car. The moment the night air hit me, I shuddered. Who knew it would be so cold at night when you weren’t wearing a jacket? I looked over at Brian but he didn’t seem to mind, and why would he? His body was a tower with rippling muscles that probably kept him warm. Would he hold me if I asked?

He turned the heat up when we started in his car, a simple Toyota Camry, and he began driving.

Looking at him, I saw how serious he looked, like he was thinking very deeply about something. I wanted to know what it was that got him to look so focused. I wondered if it had to do with me. Maybe. I wished it did.

“Do, do you want... want to get a coffee, maybe?” I asked when we were a few blocks away from my house.

“What?”

Yeah, I just realized how dumb that sounded. I wanted to get coffee, at this time of night? I didn’t even know what the time was but it looked like it was midnight, or a couple hours after.

“Coffee, or tea, or whatever...” I answered. I didn’t know what I was doing but I think the message was clear. I didn’t want to go home.

I didn’t want to leave Brian just yet.

***

“You’re seriously driving two hours away to get coffee?” I shouted at Brian in shock.

It was at this moment that I realized the flaw in my plan.

“What? It’s only 12:30, we can get there and back by 6am. No biggie” he shrugged, chuckling.

It turned out that Brian knew of a diner in a little town called Angel Falls that had a 24-hour service and apparently, they served the best waffles at 2am.

Who knew?

“How did you even know about that diner?” I asked. It was literally two hours away.

“I passed by it a few times before moving here” he said and I sighed.

“You sound disappointed”.

I shrugged. “I thought the story was romantic. Maybe you had an old lover there when you were young and you two used to visit the diner” I admitted. Those were really the stories, right?

“You calling me old?”

I laughed, shaking my head.

“There’s no story, sorry to burst your bubble baby” he chuckled. “I just love their waffles”.

“A rational person would probably think you’re a serial killer.” I stated, blowing out a big breath. Ah, what the hell? I couldn’t say I wasn’t intrigued. I wanted to know what was so good about those waffles that Brian wanted to drive all that way to have, with me.

“Probably” he laughed.

Wait, what?

***

Brian parked in front of a cute diner called Karla’s. The lights were still on and I could make up two or three silhouettes inside the building that said they were still opened.

I wasn’t sure if I was happy about this, to be honest. I hadn’t seen much of the town but Brian knew his way around so we got here with no problem. Little towns in the middle of nowhere irked me. There was always talks of serial killings and what not in these kind of places but I guess I had Brian here to protect me.

I got out of the car whiles he turned it off. Placing my hands in pockets, I followed him closely as he walked towards the door. Brian came back to me and placed his arm around my shoulder, pulling me into him, in a possessive kind of way.

I smiled.

“Hey sweethearts, what may I get you to drink?” a beautiful lady with the brightest green eyes I had ever seen asked us when we sat down at a booth. She had long dark brown hair, that kind of looked of flowing chocolate and a very radiant smile.

I placed the menu I was holding down and placed my hand on the table. I looked out the window as Brian ordered. I didn’t know what was good so I let him.

“Hot cocoa with marshmallows please” Brian said, ordering the same for me as well. He then put his hand on my outstretched one. He squeezed my hand affectionately and I felt my stomach flutter, a tingle running down my spine.

I couldn’t keep the smile off my face.

“Aww, you two are so cute” she cooed and walked away.

“She’s right you know?” he asked and I turned to look at him. His face was so close to mine, I could feel his hot breath on me and somehow, I wanted to get even closer.

“About what?” I whispered, looking into his eyes.

He stared into my eyes, a few seconds longer, making me nervous, before answering. “You’re cute” he smirked at me.

I looked down at our hands to hide the evident blush on my face. Was he serious? Oh my god. I hadn’t felt this way before. I was so nervous and shy around him, and just because he called me cute.

“Y-you’re hot” I stuttered, not because I didn’t know what to say. I wanted him to know that I appreciated his hot bod.

“That’s nice to know” he whispered in my ear, and a snack embarrassing sound came out of my mouth. I think I moaned.

“What?”

“That you appreciate my hot bod” he laughed as his hands left mine. The blush on my face wasn’t leaving anytime soon with how nervous he made me with such simple words. His hand found its way to my shoulder again and this time, when he pulled me towards him, I laid my head on his shoulder with a sigh.

This was nice.

“Here’s your coco love birds” the lady smiled at us. I sat upright and took my cup, enjoying the warmth of it against my cold palms. “Would you like anything else?”

“Yeah, a plate of your famous waffles ma’am” Brian answered. “This one here needs some loving in his system” he teased and I slapped his arm. “Ow” he whined. “See what I gotta live with?” he complained to the woman who just laughed at his antics.

“You two remind me of my own boy and his sweetheart” she said, pointing at two boys in the back. I turned to look at them and the smaller one had his head resting on the bigger one’s shoulder just like I was doing with Brian. Were they in a relationship? I wondered.

“If you’ve been together long like they have, you know it’s all just how much he loves you” she said to Brian and winked at me, making me blush.

I gave her a small smile. I guess we did look like we were in a relationship and for some reason, it didn’t bother me. Did I want to be in a relationship with Brian? Was that why he was first go to when I felt sad?

“How long have they been together?” I asked her.

“Oh, just about a year or two. I don’t know, you’d think they had known each other their whole lives” she cooed and walked away to get our waffles.

She was so accepting of them. It made me wonder if that was how everyone in this town was about homosexuals. Would people in our town feel the same way about Brian and I?

Were people in my town homophobic like me? I wondered. Was that why my parents had kept themselves a secret for so long? I probably didn’t help with my behaviour. It made me wonder if things would have been different had I been accepting of Niall and everyone who was gay like this woman was. Maybe he would have seen me as his brother. Maybe my parents would have told me sooner.

But then again, she probably hadn’t experienced what I had with gay people so she had nothing to fear.

“What are you thinking about?”

“Oh, nothing” I said.

“Doesn’t look like it” Brian answered. He pulled me in closer than before since I had moved away from him a bit. I couldn’t help placing my head on his shoulder. It felt so comfortable there, and safe.

“What’s going on in that little head of yours” he asked, chuckling.

“I’m just wondering how people can be so accepting of gay people” I answered truthfully.

“It may come as a shock to you baby, but two men loving each other is not the worst thing in the world” Brian sighed.

“I know... I just... I want to accept it, because maybe, it’s not so bad after all but after...” I trailed. I couldn’t even say it.

“Not all gay men are like that” he answered making me sit up to look at his face. “Hell, not all human beings are like that”. Where had I heard that before?

“What happened to you was bad, really. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone and I’m so sorry it happened to you. So sorry” he said and pulled me in a hug. I was confused. What was he talking about? “But, not everyone in this world is evil”.

“What... How did you know?” I asked, because at this point, it was obvious that he knew why I hated gay people so much.

“You told me” he said, pulling back to look at my face. I brought my hands to his face and wiped away the tears that threatened to fall down his cheeks. I didn’t want him to cry, ever, not because of me. “Not in so many words, but I get the gist”.

I nodded. “It was the worst part of my life. I didn’t even know such a thing could happen” I told him. I had been so scared during that time. “I started cutting after it happened. I didn’t want to experience that kind of pain again”.

“Oh baby” Brian hugged me fiercely again. “I’ll keep you safe, I promise”.

Don’t promise what you can’t do.

“I’ll try my best, Aiden. I won’t ever hurt you” he assured me and I nodded even though he couldn’t see me.

I trusted him, somehow. I knew that Brian wouldn’t hurt me. He had the chance to do so, he had the chance to use me as I had been so vulnerable and even then, not once had he touched me.

It took rape victims a long time to come back to life, if I could use those words. I didn’t even want to think about what happened in middle school and even though it was at the back of my mind, every single day of my life, even though it was the reason why I did a lot of things, after telling Brian, it seemed to have disappeared.

It was gone.

And I was no longer a victim.

***

Karla’s waffles were the best waffles I had ever had in my life. It was whipped cream, honey and strawberries. Mom made that at home but this tasted even better, no offence mom.

“I told you you’d love it” Brian teased when we got up to leave after paying for the food. That was a whole argument, trust me. Brian ended up paying for it, much to my dismay but maybe next time, right?

It didn’t bother me that I was already thinking of a next time. I knew that what I said about accepting gay people had probably been about myself. Maybe I could finally accept me and my new found love for this hunk of a man.

When we walked out, hand in hand, I noticed the boy with blue eyes and black hair smiling at me, and two little thumbs sent in my way, as if wishing me good luck. I smiled back and nodded in return.

When we got to the car, I looked at Brian asked he opened the car door. I wasn’t ready to sit down yet. Not before I did this.

I walked to him and tapped his shoulder.

When he turned, I stood on my toes and planted the best damn kiss I’d ever kissed anyone on his lips.

I was finally ready to live.

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