CHAPTER 1: ...Frith Street, UK - January

"You alright, mate?" I ask. I don't know his name, and I don't really care. He's cute. I wanna fuck him.

He doesn't hear me.

The music isn't that loud, though. "Mate?" Finally, he looks at me. "You all right?"

I study him for a second. He looks fucking exhausted. He's got this wavy black hair and is slouched over drinking something I can't figure out. His glasses are slipping down his nose and he looks like a tired librarian. Nerdish appearance aside, he's got this really attractive face.

The bartender gets me my beer. I don't know what he's drinking. It looks like a rum and coke. Or a whiskey? I don't know. And I don't care.

The bar's cool. It's like a really big airplane cabin. Like, long. Or even a wider-than-norman private train car. Bar's on one side, seating along the walls, and light wells punctured in the sloping ceiling.

Except I'm not that interested in the bar. I'm interested in stripping him down and seeing if he screams.

He leans forward a little. "Wha?" And then he takes off his glasses to rub his eyes.

"You all right?"

He nods his head hard and then looks back at the three still-full drinks by him. "I'm waiting for my friends to come back." His voice is distinctively American, except it has some weird English inflections mixed in.

He puts back on his glasses and glances around, scratching the top of his head. His face is really round and you can tell it's a face that can emote like nobody's business; clearly not a British face. But his breath is heavy as he looks around the long room more than once. "They've been gone for half an hour," he says finally, after three minutes of staring.

"Mate?"

"What?" He asks because he didn't hear me.

"I think they ditched you." He leans in, and I repeat myself.

"Why would they abandon me at the Bugle?"

I crack a smile. Oh, this poor kid. "Luv, this is the Bulge."

His eyes widen. In the blue light behind the bar, I can't tell what colour they are. "No...no. This is the Bugle. My friends told me so."

"Mate, this is the Bulge." I lean forward. "Though I can understand if you want to ditch them, too."

He turns back to the bar and sighs, putting his face in his hands. "I knew the sign wasn't a typo," he whispers, and then downs whatever is in his glass.

I signal for the bartender for another of whatever he was drinking.

You know what I see?

Diet Coke.

Sorry, let me clarify. Diet Coke with ice.

This poor kid, who's been abandoned at a gay bar by his friends, is drinking Diet Coke. And I don't even think he came to cruise like I did.

Honestly, I'd be drinking to forget.

"Wanna get out of here?" I ask in a low voice.

He sighs and looks around one more time. "Let me message my friends so I can tell them I'm leaving, okay?" He pulls out some money for the drinks and stands up.

I blink. "You can't do it outside?"

"Not without WiFi," he mutters, and I follow him out the door and back up towards the street.

The air is cooler than it was when I came into the bar three hours ago. There's a breeze that runs across Frith Street towards the city centre, and it carries the smell of exhaust, cigarette smoke, and rubbish with it.

I mean, the street isn't that pretty, either. It's bland, safe for all the neon signs that're humming.

And it isn't even the bar's sign. There's a sushi place across the street. And then a corner shop next to the bar.

He sighs and rubs his arms, like it's the first time he's been in the company of strangers. He looks at me and smiles, exhausted, and says, "Thanks." I'm about to suggest we get a cab before going to his place, but by the time I glance back at him, he's turned down the street towards this Mediterranean place by the intersection.

"Hey, wait!" I call. I catch up with him and match his pace. "The least I can do is...walk you back to your flat."

He's not looking at me. "I'm catching the train."

I blink. "Kinky." I've never gotten it on with someone on a train before. Taxi, yes. Bus, that was hot. But train? I've been missing out.

No, that's a lie. I've done it with someone on the Pendolino. But the Underground is trickier.

He either didn't hear me or chose not to. "You live down here?"

I shake my head. "Nah, I'm up in Islington."

The street's a little quieter now. He nods. "Ah. I'm just off Old Street station."

We cross Shaftesbury Ave and then turn onto a side street. He either isn't very talkative or is very shy. Either way, the perks of finding out if he screams is interesting to me.

"How old are you?" he asks.

"Don't I look my age?" I ask. I get this weird expression of embarrassment. Or constipation. I don't think he knows how to respond to that. "I'm nineteen. You?"

"Twenty-one."

YOU DO NOT LOOK TWENTY-ONE. "Oh."

This guy looks away at the upcoming traffic, and I'm lost in the realisation that he probably isn't a screamer. Maybe he groans and moans?

"What're you doing here?"

"What?" he asks.

"England. What are you doing here?"

He sighs again and looks at me, then back to the road. "Studying abroad." He inhales. "I can't afford it, but I've always wanted to come here."

"Hm." Not the answer I was looking for.

"Your accent is nice," he says. But he's watching the traffic on the road.

I smirk. "Maybe you and it could get - " He pulls me back as a bus goes by.

"Tsk," he mutters. "You need to be more careful. And this is coming from a non-city dweller." He smiles.

"What're you implying?"

"That you're not paying attention enough."

"I think I'm paying attention enough," I say, glancing him up and down. He looks away again as we dodge cars on Charring Cross Rd.

We get to the entrance of Leicester Square Underground station and he turns to me. "Thanks for walking me to the station." He turns to go down the steps.

I grab his arm. "What's the rush?" I point to the steakhouse right next door and grin. I can't afford it, but he can't leave yet. "Let's grab something."

He scoffs at me. "I can't afford that."

"No worries," I say. I will get fucking laid tonight if it's the last goddamn thing I do.

He's looking between me and his arm, which I'm holding. I can actually see the gears in his head turning. "Are...are you asking me out?"

"You're right," I say, releasing him. "Let's skip this bullshit." He cringes, but I don't care. "Your station's, what, 20 minutes away?" I pause for a second. "Nah, too long. Hold on." I take out my phone. "I got a guy. Runs a taxi. We can do whatever we want in it and he's totally cool with it."

He blinks. "I...think I'm just...gonna take the train."

I smile for a second and then sigh. "Sorry, am I...do you want to do this?"

"What?"

He's just staring at me like he doesn't really know what the hell I'm saying. Like I'm speaking another language or he's just that stupid.

And then it hits me.

Maybe he's not that stupid.

He's just oblivious.

And it doesn't make sense for me to keep trying.

I scoff and step back. "Sorry, mate. I just...I thought that..."

"...a guy at a bar would want to be asked out by someone?" I look at him, impressed. And then he disappoints me: "I know the situation seems kind of...out there - " He makes this exaggerated face and pushes air away from him. " - but I promise I wasn't there for that. Again, I didn't even realize it was a gay bar. I thought it was a bar called the Bugle. My friends kind of dragged me there."

I wag my finger at him. "...that's right, you didn't know it was a gay bar," I mutter.

"What?"

I put on this cheesy grin. And I know he won't notice the difference. "Nothing. Just glad I could help you."

He produces a halfhearted smirk and begins backing away. "Have a good night..." His face contorts, and he steps back towards me. "I...don't know your name."

I hold out my hand. "It's Tommy." He shakes my hand, and then turns to head into the Underground station. "I - I didn't catch your name!" But he doesn't hear me and proceeds down to whichever line he's taking. Before long, he's gone.

"Fuckin' moron," I mutter, and turn back to head to the Bulge. Except I stop, watch a truck pass by, and head for Leicester Square Underground station. Because I'm fucking tired, and I want to go home. And it just so happens to be the same station I take to get home.

What a waste of a goddamn night.


Author's Note -
HI EVERYONE!
Yes, I know I've been away for a long while (like, 12 years basically), but I'm back with a new story following in the footsteps of Soulmates! Not the same universe, but that same striving for realism against an urban backdrop.

If you're enjoying the story (chapter) so far, please leave a comment and like the story! If you have any suggestions for it, please let me know! Thanks, guys!