Author: Howling Cat PM
[Slash] Carter's a down on his luck exotic dancer with enough mysteriousness to drown a whale. Ryan's just the poor guy who got dragged under and won't ever come up for air.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Chapters: 3 - Words: 10,592 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 11 - Updated: 05-18-08 - Published: 12-22-07 - id: 2453539
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I shouldn't be starting another story when I have, like, three others to work on. But I couldn't help it, because I love this idea and I already have the characters plotted out in my head. Oh, this'll be fun.
Summary: Carter's a down-on-his-luck 'exotic dancer' with enough mysteriousness to drown a whale. Ryan's just the poor guy who got dragged under the surface and won't ever come back up for air. Slash
Warning: To put it nicely, Carter's a sort-of-stripper. I don't know how to warn you about that. (And there's alcohol usage, too, but that's not important.) And I'm trying out a new perspective, and that might change from time to time, so you should be warned about that too.
This chapter's for Twenty-six colors, who gave me an awesome review for Do Not Open Before Christmas and therefore inspired me to spew creative vomit all over you.
But still, he was the kind of kid that mothers would fawn over and other kids' mothers would want their sons to be like. He didn't go out and get smashed on the weekends, didn't go watch strip shows, didn't hit on random girls in a drunken stupor; instead he stayed in his dorm and did straightlaced things. Because he was Ryan Michael Shawn Rochelle, and he was a good boy.
That was what I kept telling myself as Parker and Landon dragged me–literally–into the local joint, Embry following along behind and laughing. They'd spent all of ten minutes telling me it would be fun, exciting, a whole new experience in ways I didn't want to think about before Landon had gotten tired of my refusals and actually picked me up. Parker had cottoned on to the idea soon enough, and the next thing I knew Embry was telling them not to drop me as I was carted inside. Mentally I cursed myself for picking a footballer and the star basketball forward for friends.
"I feel like an invalid," I grumbled as Parker dropped my legs and I stood up, shaking Landon's hands off of my torso. I chanced a look around; darkness, pierced by brightly colored neon lights and the overhead bulbs above the bar to my right. Out on the dance floor it was a mass of grinding, sweating bodies, glowsticks swinging this way and that. Behind them, on a platform, there were several girls I didn't particularly care to stop and look at on poles. "Or a really bored college student."
"You are, if you haven't forgotten. Lighten up!" Landon exclaimed, slapping my back with much more force than necessary. I winced. I mean, really, I understood the guy had to be tough, but couldn't he soften up a little bit around me? I wasn't the one he was trying to run over; believe me, I'd be the first person to say, "You want the ball? Take it, please."
"That's why we're out here," Parker said, removing Landon's hand from my back with that gentle smile he always seemed to have. Right then I could've dropped to me knees for thank God for levelheaded people like Parker. "We're just going to have a good time, Ryan. You don't even have to drink if you don't want to, just...try to loosen up, okay?"
"That makes you the designated driver!" Embry quipped. I glanced down at him; the diminutive dark-haired boy grinned, amber eyes flashing with the prospect of getting plastered. "C'mon, Ry, I wanna get a drink. Or get drunk." He giggled and grabbed me by the wrist, tugging me away from the sanctuary of Parker's rationale and toward the bar.
"You're not drunk already?" I asked dryly, trying not to stumble over a guy who'd passed out on the floor. I didn't think he appreciate waking up to having his face stepped on, no matter how much he deserved for sleeping on the ground.
"No, silly!" He stopped with a hop, a skip and a jump that vaguely reminded me of middle school P.E. classes, finding two empty stools at the counter. I joined him reluctantly, glancing back out at the dance floor. If I lost track of Embry he was likely to get trampled to death out there, and then I'd be all by myself. I couldn't go through that–the loneliness, I mean. I could stand to lose Embry–so I resolved to make sure he came out of tonight alive. Giggling, bruised and smashed, for sure, but alive.
I wasn't listening as Embry started up a conversation with the bartender, a lanky, almost timid-looking guy who was exactly Embry's type. Instead I was sweeping the crowd for Parker or Landon to tell them that they were going to pay when we left, intent on at least flipping them off, when something on the stage caught my eye.
Or, rather, someone, seeing as humans are people and not things, but still. My eyes were on the dancer to the far right and my mouth was probably open, but I could care less (as long as Embry was fixated on the guy behind the bar and not my conspicuous lack of self-control).
He was a brunette, I could tell from here, a brunette with bright witch-hazel green eyes that shone in the blue light that illuminated him. He didn't look like any stripper I'd ever seen, not like the ones who were only in it for the free drinks and the money they'd get paid later. No, from where I was it looked almost like he was enjoying it.
"..." I stole a look at Embry, who was chattering away at the guy and looking like he wasn't going to move any time soon. But just for safety measures... "Stay here, Em," I told him, patting his shoulder and sliding off the stool.
"Not a problem, Ry!" I heard as I slipped away, dodging a few guys who looked like they could tear my poor head off just by thinking about it, and made my way through the outskirts of what was beginning to seem more like a mosh pit than a dancer floor.
Even on the edges, where the people were a little more sober and a little more restrained, it was wild; girls were screaming and laughing and dancing with abandon, and I could swear I got pinched in places I'd rather not be pinched in at least four times before I'd even gotten halfway to the stage. But I wasn't really paying attention to the people around me as much as that guy on the stage, the one who I'd already made up my mind to talk to. I couldn't tell you why or even how I was going to do this, but I was. That much I knew.
That determination carried me through the current of thrashing bodies to stand just a few feet from the stage. All I really wanted to do was stop and stare, but I knew I'd get caught faster than you could say, 'Hey, were you checking that guy out?' so I attempted a casual pose that probably made me look like a casual idiot and proceeded with my ogling.
He was even prettier up close, I decided, because now I could see the exact shade of the blond highlights streaking his hair and the different depths of green that flashed in his eyes and the warmth of his skin and that faint smile rimming his mouth. I could see the glow-in-the-dark colors lighting up his fingernails as he moved his hands and the glowsticks swinging jauntily from his neck. And if I actually got close enough to touch, would he be prettier? Would he...
I stopped my train of thought right there, shaking my head and looking away for a moment. It was odd, how it seemed like butterflies would erupt in the pit of my stomach if I even thought about him looking at me, and odder still that I was still entertaining those thoughts. Because there were several problems with that, the first being that I didn't even know the guy. The second, probably more pressing than the first, was that Ryan Michael Shawn Rochelle was definitely not gay in any sense of the word. At all. Period.
So to prove this to myself, I steeled myself and looked back up.
And he was looking at me, with that barely-there smile that almost widened when his eyes met mine, and there weren't just butterflies in my stomach. They were giant fucking moths, I decided, or maybe even birds of some sort, waiting for the food they'd glimpsed when I just about swallowed my tongue.
So I choked, naturally (that was my first reaction to making eye contact with anybody even remotely attractive) and ended up coughing and breathless. When I looked at him again, his expression was amused and he was laughing at me, I could tell. I blushed, but he just shook his head minutely as if to say 'I get that all the time' and kept on doing what he was getting paid to do.
What I was doing didn't exactly get me paid, but it sure as hell was worth it. For the next fifteen minutes I stood and watched him dance, watched him cater to the wishes of the people who'd stopped dancing–moshing–to do the same thing I'd been doing since I got here. Half the time my mind was focused solely on the brunette, and the other half was wondering if Landon was going to come crashing into my line of vision in the next two seconds, tackle me flat, and ask me what the hell I was doing because I'd told him I wasn't gay. Which, of course, I wasn't.
To my unanimous relief and disappointment the song ended and the brunette was replaced by a purposefully disheveled-looking redhead who didn't have anything on him. I couldn't help but let my eyes stray to the backstage door and its tempting, grimy silver handle and its promise of seeing that not-really-there smile again.
I'd have stood there forever and a few weeks to see if he'd come out, but thankfully it was only ten minutes before the door swung open, releasing the sounds of laughter and jovial voices, and he came out. This time he was wearing jeans and a tight green shirt with a logo I either didn't recognize or just couldn't read, looking more like a random college kid than a stripper.
He waved goodbye to someone inside and turned, stepping high over the red rope that separated the backstage from the rest of the club. He didn't fit the typical small-slender-slinky stripper stereotype; he was long-legged and lithe, and probably as tall as I was. Definitely as tall as I was, I corrected myself as he spotted me and came over, walking with a confident, self-assured grace that seemed to come naturally to him.
"Hey," he said to me, and I swear I will remember that one word for the rest of my life. His voice wasn't too deep, clear and hypnotic in a way that could've gotten him by as a snake-charmed. Or a person-charmer.
"H-hi," I managed to choke out, realizing afterwards how much of a loser I must've sounded like and blushing. He didn't seem to mind, though, instead letting loose a laugh that made me want to rephrase the definition of 'chorus of angels'.
"So you liked the show?" He asked, a devilish smirk on his face. I blushed harder, not knowing what to say to please him and communicate that yes, I was straight, at the same time.
"Uhm...s-sure?" God, I felt like a nervous schoolgirl talking to her crush. Except I wasn't a girl and I didn't have a crush. So, to make sure I didn't sound like I did, I managed to regain some of my composure and made it through my next sentence without screwing up. "I'm Ryan."
"Carter," he replied, tilting his head at me in lieu of a handshake. I didn't mind; touching him probably would've sent me into a hysteric fit. "You wanna get a drink?"
I was glad he'd asked first; I had no idea how to phrase something like that. "Sure," I answered, almost nonchalantly, and he smiled, lifting a hand. This was one thing I knew what do to; I took it, not expecting the electric tingle that passed between us as our palms touched.
He–Carter, now, I told myself–pulled me through the crowd, weaving through them with enviable agility, whereas I just kind of stumbled along behind him, not wanting to fall behind. Surprisingly enough I made it to the bar in one piece, which reminded me of the promise I'd made to myself to keep Embry alive. When I looked down the counter, though, neither he or the bartender from earlier were in sight and that was probably a good thing right now. At least then Embry couldn't regale Carter with embarrassing advice on what I had or hadn't done (like picking up guys, for example. Beginner's luck, I say.).
"Two," Carter told the new barmaid, a tall curly-haired girl with eyes that were an odd shade of brownish orange who greeted us with a friendly grin. Apparently she knew what he was talking about, because she turned and called out to another barmaid with black hair and eyes that matched hers, one who was busy doing absolutely nothing.
"Levaya!" She called, and Levaya twitched, turning to look. When she spotted Carter she grinned, sliding off of the counter to stand at attention. The other girl was pulling glasses from the rack as she talked. "Carter's got a friend tonight."
"Well, well, well, Femi, I do believe you're right." Levaya laughed, ducking down into the cabinet to pull out several bottles that I didn't recognize. "What's your name?"
It took a moment before I realized she was talking to me. "Ryan," I said, turning pink, and gave her a weak smile. She just laughed again, amused.
"I've got a friend like you, y'know," she said conversationally, sliding one glass to Femi, who caught it and pushed it at me. "He's shy, but he doesn't blush at everything anyone says."
"That we do, chica," Femi agreed, reaching under the cabinet as Levaya slid the second glass to her. She came up with a handful of little paper umbrellas that she methodically stuck into Carter's glass, glancing at him mischievously. "So you're not alone tonight, Carter! That's new."
"How would you know?" Carter asked, snatching his glass from Femi and giving her a half-repressed smile.
"Because we're the bartenders," Levaya answered for her, rolling her eyes. "Of course we know."
"If you haven't forgotten, we spend our time working here and entertaining you," Femi added, chucking a blue umbrella at Levaya's head.
"Or back in the lounge, but that's only when what's-his-face–"
"Isn't running off with random people," Levaya finished, nudging Femi with an elbow. "Who was that guy, anyway?"
"Short, dark hair, doesn't shut up?" I put in, lifting my glass. Femi nodded, raising an eyebrow. I sighed. "That'd be Embry."
"Well, whoever he was, he had to have been something else to get Leigh away from his station," Levaya concluded, shrugging.
I shrugged too, and the girls were distracted by someone else calling their name at the other end of the bar (I caught the tail end of "–getting him drunk, Maverick?" before I just shut them out altogether) so I turned to Carter. He was smiling at me in a way that made my eyebrow pull a disappearing act into my hairline.
"What?" I asked, feeling self conscious.
"Not many people can put up with those two that well, meeting them at midnight. They're crazy," Carter said, shaking his head fondly. I just smiled, thinking of my own crazy friends who were likely to kill me in the morning for losing all my sanity and actually going through with this.
"I'll drink to that," he said, raising his glass. I tapped mine against his own and swallowing it in one go.
I almost choked on the burning sensation as it slid down my throat, resisting the urge to cough uncontrollably, and blinked away the tears pricking at the corner of my eyes. Carter just smiled that smile and laughed, glass empty and an umbrella twitching lazily between his teeth.
What better reason was there for getting smashed, waking up with a first-timer's hangover from hell, and probably missing several important items when I woke up? Oh, probably my birthday, my wedding, my bachelorette party, the birth of my child; I could think of an infinite number of things.
But the only one I needed right now was staring me in the face.