The Window

There's a fire. Someone pulled a knife. Someone call the police. Someone's getting their head bashed in. The guy was affiliated with a local gang.

None of those statements would stir anything more than a noncommittal shrug from him. Hell, if you ran into his room and told him any of the above, he probably wouldn't have bothered to stir or move away from the side of his boyfriend. Avery figured, that was what you got from running a bar, even a high-end one: trouble. So in general the man was fairly implacable, maintaining the same cool poise before and after the daily briefing he got from his subordinates every late afternoon when he came down from his upstairs flat and began helping setup for the night.

That day, Avery looked just about the same as he did any other, stepping down the stairs and extinguishing his cigarette on a stylishly-placed sculpted ashtray the bottom of the stair railing, gazing over the dimly-lit, closed bar and the sparse number of employees who had come in. Standing at the foot of the stairs, his umber eyes flicked about, discerning. "What's up?" he asked after a moment.

Closest to him was Laura, only half in her uniform and half in a camisole, wiping the thin coat of dust off a table before moving to bring down more chairs. Pulling back the stray lock of white hair that had escaped her ponytail, she looked at him sharply and said, "There was a guy in here early looking for you." And proceeded to describe him.

There's a fire. Someone pulled a knife. Someone call the police. Someone's getting their head bashed in. The guy was affiliated with a local gang.

These words didn't affect Avery Wordsworth.

Youngish blond guy with a screwed-up looking ponytail. Glasses. Super light blue eyes.

Those words did.

"He said he'd come back later, actually, around now-"

And Avery had launched himself back upstairs and in from of a mirror, scurrying in the whole motion in less than a few seconds. His flat door shut with a hollow slam behind him as he found himself staring into the mirror, plucking out details like eyebags, bloodshot eyes, an uneven shaving job and the slight wrinkles on his brow and proceeding to hurry and wash his face.

Somewhere in the next room, in the partial view allowed by the open door, someone was stirring in bed. Avery cast a single pained glance at the figure knotted in the bedsheets, then returned to drying his face and desperately redoing his hair. All the old scars dotting the soft inner sides of his arms seem to tingle in a way that was neither pleasurable nor painful. Just alert. Avery made a final glance into the mirror over the sink, staring into his own eyes and darting them over his black hair, the scars on his brow where piercings used to be, the lip piercing. Was he even recognizable anymore?

Whatever. He resigned himself to knowing he'd looked a lot worse, especially in older days. Doing a final brush through his hair with his fingers, he went to don the black waistcoat splayed over the bathroom pipes before heading back to the door and locking it behind himself, stepping down the wooden stairwell with a light, wary tread.

Avery stopped in his tracks and stared.

The bar was still closed, but Laura had let him in, and he stood amongst the dusty tavern chairs and tables, hands in his coat pockets and a weary smile on his lips. He looked older, but so much of the same essence of him was there and that had been what seized Avery's breath away in that very moment. It was like staring right into the past and seeing it stare right back, and smile.

"Hey," the man reached out of his coat pocket, moving aside his scarf and providing a weak wave.

Avery stood back, hand on the stair balustrade. "Hey."

The man nodded, seeming to understand this distance, and didn't say or do anything to incriminate it. "Wouldn't recognize you if not for your piercing. And your eyes." He nodded again, looking left and right. "Nice place you got here."

Avery forced a grin and said, "Jealous, blondie?"

He got a slight faint laugh, a laugh that threw him all the way ten years in the past. "Nah, I'm cool. I got a lot of money after a commission to look at alternative power sources. People called me a whore for it too since it's such a popular physicist occupation nowadays but hey, I was good at it," his smile seemed a little warmer then. "You really look like you're doing all right."

"Not as well as you, obviously," Avery shot back, walking the rest of the way down the stairs. "How's leader man? You still living with him?" He stopped himself a little, realizing how he said leader man like it was the most natural thing in the world, when he hadn't been in a gang for years the man in question hadn't been his leader for almost a decade already. He couldn't bring himself just to ask the man what he had come for- it had been so, so long since he'd seen him and Avery found himself wondering if it was a funeral, a wedding, or a reunion.

Avery saw the light spark up in the man's sky-blue eyes long before he even opened his mouth, and inwardly sighed- only in that he already knew the answer.

"Yup, we haven't killed each other yet."

There you go. Avery told himself not to be surprised. He had someone of his own now, and even then he was getting to old and the whole thing was too long ago to be petty about. So he smiled. "Cool. So what's up? You two tying the knot yet?" He still remembered the redhead himself skulking into his bar only a few weeks before, asking in a hushed tone about houses near the university. He remembered thinking that nobody was trapped in agelessness and even WM saw years gone by before him and felt threatened by it. He didn't see that same concerned, aged look in this man, and so silenced himself from mentioning the visit.

A melodious laugh escapes his lips and the man looks younger than ever. "No." He stood so strong on his feet and looked a lot like the picture of the university professor that he was, albeit a relatively young one. And yet Avery knew this was the same guy. It was almost dizzying to look at him. "I just came by doing some business in the area." He looked above his glasses, something wry creeping into his face. "You got older, but looks like you got lucky enough to be the type of old all the young boys and girls go swooning over," he smiled.

"You're younger than me," Avery said offhandedly, trying to deflect the words and smiling a little himself.

The smile fell off just a little, though it didn't really leave his eyes. "Not enough for you to get your hopes up again," he spoke lightly.

Again.

"Yeah you probably got your own fan brigade over at your university, blondie," even with a joke, Avery was gripping the stair rail. "Hey, it was good seeing you," he continued, stepping down to offer his hand to shake.

The blond looked at it briefly, as if considering something, then reached out, calluses brushing calluses as the the mens' hands clasped. "Keep in touch, yeah," he said cheerfully. Beautiful as ever.

Avery lied, not really seeing a reason why he'd ever keep in touch. "Sure." He continued the hold, inclining his head and peering straight into the eyes of the man across him, searching for anything, any other reason he may have dropped in, anything he really wanted. "...Nicholas," he started. Their hands remained.

"Yeah?" the blond looked right back.

"You still go by that funny nickname?"

Nicholas looked a little puzzled, face twitching momentarily before he reeled off a seemingly forced chuckle. "It's not that whacky, Pitaya." He drew his hand away and stuck it back in his pocket.

It was then Avery's turn to laugh. "That's a yeah, then. Alright, blondie," he touched the man's shoulder. "It was good seeing you."

The blond nodded. "You too."

Noel is perched on the windowsill, staring down through the dirty glass at the street below, cigarette smoke drifting up from the stick between his lips. He looks somewhat disheveled, pants and shirt open and suspenders hanging limply off his shoulders, but his green eyes are clear. Avery raises an eyebrow upon seeing the young man up so early, but saunters across the room to join him at his post and watch the people start spilling into the streets as the night falls.

The young man looks at him with a gaze short of no clarity, and offers him the lit cigarette as he says, "I heard you talking downstairs. Old flame?"

Avery laughs and takes it, but not before kissing him and tasting the smoke in his mouth. "Friend of a friend, one night stand." He wonders if it makes Noel feel more and more like a kid, knowing that there have been men before him, men Avery's age. "Does it bother you?" he whispers after taking a deep breath.

The young man shrugs, looks at the sunlight creeping away from the sky over the buildings. "It's kind of what I get in the whole older man package. Kinda like how you get people calling you a cradle robber. Even though you know you weren't."

"You know about that, huh," Avery takes a particularly deep suck through the cigarette.

Not even the soft bleating from the traffic mutes out the quiet huff. "Yeah." Noel goes on to add, "I don't mind all that much. I know who you are."

Avery nods to himself and puffs away serenely. Noel's right.

The sun draws completely away and the blue hues fill the sky, and they can both hear the clattering of fledgling business in the bar beneath them. Neither of them moves, and they don't move for a long time.

"You can go on and think about what it would have been like if he did too, sometimes," the youth says, not looking at him. "I don't mind. It happens. You're mine in the end anyway," he says, chest rising with a large breath, the fleur-de-lis pendant necklace upon it rising with him and catching light. He's a stunning sight and Avery doesn't dare look away.

So he doesn't. He smokes until the end is but a nub and can only think about how much he agrees.