Kyle Barrett leaned back against the bar, eyes focused on the dance floor. More specifically, focused on Sabien. The short man was out there in the middle, dancing like no one was watching. But Kyle was definitely watching. Something about Sabien was absolutely alluring and demanding of attention. A group of young women danced around him, descending upon him like moths on a flame. They fawned over him, hands dragging over the beautiful black and gray gothic vest he wore, getting as close to him as humanly possible.
Sabien didn’t seem to mind, though Kyle had initially assumed he was gay. He could be bisexual, of course, or in general, he just didn’t care if women grinded up against him. Anything was possible in the grand scheme of things, especially if the broken-hearted man was only at the bar that night to try and claw his way out of the depths of betrayal.
Those betrayed eyes had been unreasonably sad when he’d been up by the counter, but Kyle had still thought he was a gorgeous man. Up close, Sabien was incredibly pale, something that made his blue eyes all the more striking. They stood out on his freckled face, looking almost unnatural. His jet black hair was slightly slicked back in some sort of messy side swept undercut. He was short, maybe only five-foot-six or so, despite the nearly dangerous flicker Kyle had caught in those strikingly sad blue eyes when he’d first come up to the bar.
Kyle looked back over to his shoulder, a smile coming to his face. “Hey, man.” He turned the rest of the way around and stuck out a fist.
The lanky man on the other side of the bar bumped it with his own. “Slow night?”
Kyle shrugged. “Not too bad. Everyone’s just officially drunk enough that they’re more into the music than more drinks.”
“Mm.” The man, Ellis Day, lifted himself onto a bar stool and crossed his arms over the counter, brown eyes shifting to the dance floor. “So… we both know you’re like, the worst liar.”
“Rude and uncalled for, but okay.”
One corner of Ellis’s mouth lifted as his gaze drifted back to Kyle. “Is it the one in the vest?”
“The super pale fancy gut out there. Dress pants, black button up, that gothic ass vest. Is that the one we’re watching?”
“Would you keep your damn voice down?” Kyle asked in a whisper. He glanced back at Sabien, still dancing with his flock of college girls. “Yes, I’m watching him.”
“Gonna ask him out for a drink? Coffee?”
“Why not? Already ruled out an interest in guys?”
Kyle shook his head. “No, he just got out of a relationship. It sounds like the break-up wasn’t too great, either.”
“Is it ever?” Ellis asked, one eyebrow raised.
“Well, no. But it seems like the guy was a total dick.” Kyle cleared his throat. “Can I getcha anything?”
“Beer’d be great.”
“Coming right up.” Kyle popped the cap off a beer bottle and set it down in front of Ellis.
Ellis took a short sip before using the bottle to gesture to the dance floor. “Been a while since you had any fun, y’know?”
“I’m not sure ‘fun’ with a guy who just got his ass handed to him is the route I wanna go.”
Ellis snorted. “If that were true, you wouldn’t be drooling over him.”
“I’m hardly drooling over him. I’m just… watching. There’s no rule against that, even if he just got out of a shitty relationship.
“Well, I guess that’s true.” Ellis looked out at the dance floor, eyes no doubt scanning for a dance partner for the night. He was a bit too gangly to look like he knew what he was doing when it came to dance, but the man had been in some form of dance classes most of his childhood to work on his balance and coordination. It usually led to at least one success on the dance floor, so Kyle didn’t really see much point in poking fun at him for his lanky ass.
“Think I’m gonna head out there and see if that gal by the jukebox wants a dance or two.” Ellis flashed a smile. “Don’t stare at the goth dude too much, yeah?”
Kyle rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I’ll do my best to control myself.” Admittedly, Kyle’s ‘best’ would be pretty low effort, but he did plan to make his stares a little closer to sneaky glances.
Ellis threw out a thumbs-up and slid off his barstool. Once he made it out to the dancefloor, he did a lazy shimmy beind Sabien, one ‘you jealous?’ eyebrow raised in Kyle’s direction. Kyle mouthed an exasperated, “Stop that!” and made a quick shooing motion with one of his hands. Ellis flashed an annoyingly shit-eating grin and headed off toward the woman by the jukebox.
Kyle’s gaze drifted back to Sabien and his dancing flock of ladies. There was something undenibaly captivating about the man’s pale, freckled face, and clearly, Kyle wasn’t the only one who had noticed it. Or maybe it was just nice to see a new face around the bar. [TOWNNAME] wasn’t the smallest town around by any means, but only having a couple thousand residents meant most of the folks that walked into the bar were familiar faces. There was always something capitavating about a stranger when you were used to serving regulars and friends.
But Sabien was oddly the most capitavating stranger he’d ever met.
Well after last call, while all the night’s patron’s cleared out, Kyle went about wiping off the bar. Someone cleared their throat about the softest one could possibly clear a throat, but it still drew his attention. Kyle lifted his head, a smile coming to his face. “Hey, Sabien.”
“Hello.” Again, the shorter man cleared his throat, tucking his hands into the pockets of his tight-fitted dress pants. “I… appreciate you being willing to talk about me, about my boyfriend. My… my ex-boyfriend. I don’t have may friends to talk to about things like that, so… Well, I appreciate it.”
“No problem, man. Comes with the job.” Kyle scratched at his temple, shifting his wiegt between his feet. “If you need to talk again, I… work every night. Y’know, if you ever need a friend or somethin’.”
“I might take you up on that offer. I suppose we’ll see how awful my boyfriend crisis seems by evening.”
Kyle snorted. “Sounds like a plan. Boyfriend crisis or not, I’m pretty much always here to chat about woes.”
Sabien offered a little smile, but it fell away fast. “Kyle, is it?”
“Thank you for affording genuine kindness to a stranger, Kyle. I’m sure that kindness has unintentionally saved a life before, but… but I can say for certain it savd one tonight. I thank you greatly for that.”
Before Kyle could even begin to come up with a response, Sabien pushed a folded fifty dollar bill into the tip jar and walked out of the bar.
Kyle woke up to the heart-racing sound of someone pounding on his door. Before the unfortunate barrel roll out of bed landed him on his ass, he heard the door open.
“Jesus, Ellis. Put some pants on, kid.”
Ellis snorted. “A man’s castle is his place to not wear anything more than his undies, Mister B. Besides, you totally woke me up.”
“Is Kyle home?”
“Yeah!” Kyle called from his room. A hand wrapped around the edge of his nightstand, he pulled himself to his feet. His tailbone was already beginning to regret his fall to the floor, but whatever his grandpa wanted seemed pretty damn urgent. He wasn’t usually a ‘knock down the apartment door’ kinda guy.
The two little raps on his bedroom door were about a million times quieter than the damn battering ram fist of fury his grandpa must’ve used on the front door. “You decent?”
“Yeah. What’s up?”
His grandpa cracked the doo open and scanned the room before opening it the rest of the way. “I called you damn near a hundred times this morning.”
Kyle sat down on the edge of his mattress, clearing his throat as he raked a hand through his hair. “I just got home a couple hours ago. It’s on do not disturb mode. And silent, I think. What’s goin’ on? Everything okay?”
“Well, now that I know you’re home and alive, yes.”
Kyle’s brow furrowed. “What’s wrong, Grandpa? Did something happen? Is everyone okay?”
His grandpa let out a heavy sigh. “A kid was killed by the bar. I mean, not a kid kid, but a young man. Around your age. With how close we found him to the bar, I was worried about you.” Before Kyle could really digest the whole homicide next to the bar thing, his grandpa added, “Anyone strange come into the bar last night?”
“No. Just… bar patrons. I’m sorry, you said someone was killed? Like murder?”
“Yes, in an alleyway not too far from the bar. You sure you didn’t see anyone suspicious come in there last night? Maybe someone sweaty or agitated?”
“Grandpa, I’m sure. Do I know the guy?”
“No, I doubt it. I’ve only heard his name in passing. I didn’t even know what the kid looked like until I showed up at the scene this morning.”
“Do I have anything to worry about? I-I mean, you busted in here like you were convinced I was gonna be dead when you got in. Are we in danger? Are…? What’s going on?”
His grandpa held up both hands for a moment, a silent ‘calm down, it’s going to be okay’. “Everything’s fine. But we don’t get homicides around here often, so when a kid around your age gets killed near your place of work, it puts me on edge in regards to your safety, especially when I can’t get ahold of you. But that doesn’t mean you’re in danger. It just means I worry about you.”
He nodded. “That’s it.” A pause. “Disable that ‘do not disturb’ shit so your damn phone rings when I call you. Next time I’m not waiting for Ellis to answer the door. I’ll bust it down.”
Kyle chuckled softly, scratching the side of his head. “Okay, I’ll make sure it’s set so it rings when you call.” He raised a brow. “You… think there’s gonna be a next time? Like a serial killer situation?”
“Here? No. But not having some killer running around town on a rampage doesn’t mean I’m going to stop worrying about you.”
“I know.” Kyle offered a smile. “But I’m safe, Grandpa. No one weird or murder-y came into the bar last night. If that changes anytime in the future, you’ll be the first to know.”
“Good.” His grandpa pulled off his bal cap long enough to scratch the top of his head. “Sorry if I scared you, kiddo. But you’re about all I got left.”
“I know. Don’t worry about it, Gramps. Thanks for making sure I was safe, really.”
“Of course. I love you. You stay safe.”
“I will. And you do the same. You’re the one working the homicide.”
His grandpa snorted. “Yeah, I s’pose. I’ll be safe.”
“Good. Love you too, Gramps.”
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