Really Nothing

by Shou Aiko (性 愛子)


stella’s is the name of the place. it’s small enough, full of dark wood and sticky varnish and a few too many mirrors and lights. it’s one and half blocks away from william’s apartment, so it’s his favorite.

william wouldn’t go to bars except that he loves the taste of a well-mixed drink, the way the flavors bloom in his mouth and burn on the way down, and stella’s bartender (a new girl, her name is liz, she has a total mona lisa thing going for her, inviting and unreadable) has a mastery that william has found unmatched in the other dives that are close enough to be worthy of consideration. he’s even found the perfect location: right against the wall where he can curl up over his drink and his bowl of pretzels, his skinny arms bruising on the counter. the television mounted over the wall of bottles is always muted on telemundo with the closed captioning on so antisocialites like himself can avoid human interaction by pretending that he understands the soft corners of text: maria, hay algo que debo decirle.

you could say he’s a regular.

in fact, you could also say he’s an alcoholic. he poses the question to mona lisa liz while she’s pouring bright streaks and drizzles into a glass: you ever think that maybe i’m an alcoholic?

she says: there’s an AA meeting across the street in about an hour if you’re that worried but i would miss the tips, so he puts another twenty on the counter and marvels at her efficiency of motion.

normally on a weekday william wouldn’t be at stella’s until at least six-thirty, if not later, but today is special because today he’s celebrating his escape from the mundane world of employment, which went something like this:

we’re downsizing

we’re letting you go

we were never quite the right match for you

please clear out your desk by the end of the day

so he dumped all the crap that had been filling his desk into the trash, stole about four pounds of various office supplies, and decided to leave early.

the bar fills up as the night goes on. music a person could almost dance to plays underneath the cadences of loud conversation and always, always: glass, liquid, ice, laughter.

al sits next to william, in the second-to-last seat by the bar, the last of the available seating in the fine and miniscule establishment. he is a golden radiating heat and shadowed eyes, which is really the fault of the mirrors. william can’t look away from al’s high cheekbones, al’s easy confidence, the way al is clearly smiling underneath his not-smile, like he knows something that no one else knows and he’s not afraid of anything. the cat that got the cream.

maria, por favor, esto es importante.

william knows his name is al because he had said: my name’s al, is this seat taken?, i’ll have a coke and a bag of chips.

al’s shoulder is warm through the layers between them. william can’t help but notice how his hands look when he opens the plastic, agile and sure. the smell of salt and grease mixes in with all the other smells, so subtle that william thinks he’s maybe imagining it.

al says: want some chips? he meets william’s eyes. he smiles, compelling, caramel-smooth and full of teeth. his face is soft with shadows.

william swallows another sour-sweet mouthful, heat inside him and through him, and thinks, why not.

he downs the rest in one go.

william’s apartment is only one and half blocks away, so of course they go there. william feels more than a little drunk, the world pleasantly slow, everything around him sparkling like black streaks in white marble.

he has a slight niggling worry that he won’t be able to perform, but more immediately: he’s worried about being able to open his apartment door.

al, al, he says, al, hold off with the molestation for just–just one second–

al leans against him, always leaning, his hand following william’s but skipping over the pocket with the keys and skimming against the front zipper of his pants.

william’s breath hitches.

(this would not be the first time he’s had a sexual encounter in his hallway.)

al’s hand is warm even through william’s jeans.

if william closes his eyes, if he just concentrates–he’s done this enough times by himself with his eyes closed that really, a little bit of–of distraction–

al doesn’t wait for the door to close behind them, his agile fingers and strong hands quick with the buttons of william’s shirt. his chest is hot on william’s back, his mouth, his pretty, pretty mouth is open and wet against william’s neck, william’s shivering without conscious control of the motion. he grabs al’s hands, he can feel al licking a trail around his collar. the wet heat draws his attention like a bright light.

i’m too drunk to have sex in the hallway, william says. al smiles against the back of his neck, into the side of his jaw. william walks them down the hall like this, al attached to him like there’s a lifeline between his lips and william’s skin.

the bedroom is cool and dark, but william wants to see this, wants to see al’s pretty golden face. he lets al pull him out of his shirt and leans over to turn on the lamp. he kicks off his shoes, careless and inelegant, and turns to look at al.

al just–just so pretty, and still just standing in the doorway, silhouetted by the hall light.

i can’t be much more inviting than this, william says, and he smiles crookedly, undoing his belt.

al seems to take a beat, like a pause in music, and then he’s slipping off his shoes and taking off his shirt in one clean motion, the stretch of his ribcage entrancing. he holds his shirt in one hand, says: there’s something you should know.

william is done with the belt and now struggles with the button of his jeans, getting harder by the second and unwilling to ruin his own moment. what, he says, sharply, what, because unless you’ve got something–we’re going to use a condom–

just hold on a second

al’s face is smoldering (a word william has previously found distasteful, but now–), his eyes are all heat and seriousness, wait

just hold on a second

and then william thinks: this is why he wears such baggy pants.

al has two dicks.

william thinks: al has two dicks.

william, shocked into stillness, thinks: maybe–maybe i’m so drunk that i’m actually imagining this, maybe i really am an alcoholic and i’m about to die of alcohol poisoning, maybe this is some terrible fever dream

except: al has two dicks and they’re both so disarmingly normal, one right next to the other, both half-hard already and otherwise not unusual in shape or size or color, and al’s face is so heated and unreadable, smooth.

and here’s the thing: william does not consider himself a kinky person. he needs no special gear to get going (most of it just makes him laugh). give him a guy with a pretty face and he doesn’t take more work than that.

al has–a very pretty face.

and william is still short of breath, still getting harder.

william thinks i’m thinking too hard about this, and shoves his pants off, no, seriously, do you need it in writing? i can write it down for you–

al is apparently all for split-second decisions, pushing his way into william’s space, william’s built for him to curl around and kiss with his hot, wet mouth, william’s built to moan for him, william can’t figure out how to continue kissing and also reach the bedside table, but al is dextrous, capable, his hands are hot and slick before william is even fully aware (but not before he’s ready)

william spreads his legs willingly, and al is confident with william’s body, his smile dangerous, his hands, his hands–slippery, slippery but warm, al is warm all over

here, al says, here, it works best like this, and who is william to argue?

so he doesn’t.

it’s one of the better decisions he’s made all day.

al is smiling at him when william opens his eyes, that hidden smile william remembers from earlier. hello, al says.

he’s still so warm against william’s side, warm and sticky, which is both gross and fantastic, and he’s one of a kind, which is more than william can say for himself or any of his previous lovers.

i’ve had an epiphany, william says, his voice low, quiet, just for the two of them.

i’ve had an epiphany.

the idea of you leaving is unpleasant, terrible, even.

(he is more serious than he has maybe ever been before. the light filtering through the blinds from the streetlights makes an interupted outline around al, patterns against his skin. william wants to see every pattern possible, if he couldn’t–)

al says, maybe i should stay.

al is there, solid, warm, and curled around him close.

yeah, as long as you like, william says.

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