Notes: Warning for alcohol consumption and speculated drug abuse. Also on LJ.
The most attractive human being John Watson has ever seen is on the dance floor right now. That is not something John thought he would ever think in a gay bar.
Probably it’s the drinks that’ve done it, he thinks. He’s lost count of how many he’s had. He holds his liquor well, so not too many, or maybe too many. What’s the difference? Drinking by yourself in a gay bar is a lonely pastime anyway. Some might even call it pathetic. He wouldn’t. Not tonight. Special occasion. Doesn’t do this often. Not going to end up like his sister, whose freshly minted marriage is already fracturing under the strain of alcoholism.
A few times, he’s caught himself thinking that Clara, Harry’s wife, is the most attractive human being he’s ever seen, with her forget-me-knot eyes and yellow hair and blinding smile. Always wondered how Harry’d managed to snag her—Harry, who has never known how to take care of beautiful things. But that doesn’t matter right now, because Clara has been stripped of the honor of most attractive human being he’s ever seen. At least, she has after a few beers.
The current holder of the “most attractive human being John Watson has ever seen” title is dancing alone in a somewhat spastic way, his hand sometimes flipping up the hem of his loose white T-shirt to reveal a flat stomach and too-pronounced hipbones. His dark, curly hair is damp with sweat, his almond-shaped eyes closed, his full lips slightly parted. John, who’s a doctor when he’s not doing a passable imitation of an alcoholic, knows a drug addict when he sees one, knows by the man’s almost translucent skin and the jerkiness in his movements. Can’t tell if he’s on anything presently, though. Maybe, maybe not. John wants to lick him.
Oh, but has he noticed John staring? Those eyes—and it’s impossible to tell what color they are in the shifting, garish lights—flicker open, find John’s face, and John doesn’t turn his head away quickly enough. Can’t. Maybe because his blood is ten percent alcohol by now. Twenty percent, it feels like. Movements slowed considerably. Thirty percent? Impossible, John’s medical training tells him. You’d be dead. And John says, Shut up, I’m not working right now.
And now the most attractive human being he has ever seen is sauntering his way over to the bar, and John turns then, pretending not to notice, not to look, because generally leering is not a good way to attract potential mates. Not that that man is a potential mate and—oh, god, he’s taken the stool two down from John’s.
Now he’s flagging down the bartender and asking for something. His mouth moves, but John can’t read lips. He thinks that the man—Youth? Nymph? No, don’t even attempt that while you’re this drunk—should probably not be drinking if he’s on something more potent than alcohol, but there’s no polite way to ask if he is, really, is there? John can’t just tap him on the shoulder and ask if he’s on cocaine. He’d like to know, though. Shouldn’t go to bed with someone on drugs. Although that’s not the only reason. And they’re not going to bed together. Even so, should ask. Doctorly concern. So John raises a hand to draw the man’s attention, and opens his mouth, but his question comes out, “That one’s on me.”
The man smiles at him, and holds up a glass full of clear liquid that might well have been vodka, how was John to know? “It’s water,” he says.
“Well,” says John, who takes the opportunity to transfer himself to the adjacent stool, “that makes my job a lot easier, doesn’t it?”
To his surprise, the man does not excuse himself and retreat back to the dance floor. Instead, he slides over one stool, too, so that they’re sitting next to each other. John swallows, then grins and signals to the bartender, a skinny, sulky fellow with far too many piercings, that he would like something stronger than water. He’ll need this drink—his last. Probably. It’s for courage. The man next to him has high, strong cheekbones and a long neck and that mouth. His eyes are still a mystery, either blue or green or grey, maybe all three. John leans a little closer, and gets a whiff of something like blueberries.
“Hello,” says John.
“Hello,” says the man, in a voice that’s gravelly from smoking or maybe he just naturally rumbles like that.
“Hello.” John leans in further to impart a great secret, something deep and insightful sure to charm the pants off of this stranger. He says, “I am going to tell you right now: you smell very good.”
Little lines around the stranger’s eyes crinkle into definition. John focuses in on them because if he doesn’t they go a bit blurry, and he thinks they’re charming. Can’t be too young, then, can he? Hard to tell. He’s practically ageless. “Do I?”
“Yes,” John says. “Like blueberries.”
The stranger takes a sip of water. Good to rehydrate after all the sweating he’s doing. Will do. No, come on, stop that. “My shampoo. I’m not partial to perfumes, they make my nose itch.”
John nods, because the stranger has just said something very wise indeed. “Quite right,” he says. “It’s nice shampoo. Shouldn’t switch it. Smells good, makes your hair look…” He waves his hand around, as if a gesture can explain what he means to say. It can’t, so he just finishes off with, “… good.”
The bartender plunks something down in front of John, who only wraps his fingers around the base of it. He doesn’t drink yet. He has a conversation to focus on. “I’m serious, you smell amazing. Although don’t take my word for it, as I may be a little very drunk.”
“A little very.” The stranger just keeps smiling and reaches forward to pluck a bit of lint out of John’s hair. John sighs, not at the touch—well, all right, at the touch. He doesn’t know what the man’s still doing here.
“Sorry, sorry,” he says quickly, swallowing again. “It’s just that you’re really lovely and I’ve never seen anyone who looks like you. You look like… a model, or something.”
“No need to feel self-conscious,” rumbles the stranger. “You’re not so bad yourself.”
“Oh, really?” John rubs at his forehead with the hand not encircling the glass of unidentified alcoholic beverage. Music in here’s loud, pulsating. Going to give him a headache, soon. Needs to get out, one way or another. Soon. Not yet. “That’s, um, that’s, well. Good. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” The stranger is watching him with amusement and something resembling intrigue. Well, better than having that glass of water dumped on his head, John supposes. “Do you usually tell strangers how lovely they are, or am I a special case?”
“You’re just special,” John says. “You’ve no idea. And… you’re alone right now, I think. Haven’t got a nasty boyfriend waiting in the wings or anything, have you?”
Oh, for that John gets a different sort of smile, one that sparkles: very straight, white teeth, shining with the strobe lights. He might faint. No, that’s utter hyperbolic rubbish. He wouldn’t faint. Not right now, not when he’s onto something. “No,” says the stranger. “You observe correctly: I’m alone. As are you.”
John looks around, over each shoulder, exaggerating it. The people he glimpses—on the dance floor, in booths—are coupling up now. Must be that time of night. “Well, would you look at that? Seems I am.”
“We have the power to change that, though,” the stranger says meaningfully, angling in toward him.
Something in the stranger’s tone makes John’s face tingle. At this distance, it wouldn’t take too much more for them to kiss. Someone would just have to get a little bit closer. “No… no.” He looks down at himself, reconsidering whether or not this is a good idea. He isn’t usually attracted to men, after all. “Although…”
John shrugs. “Well, it’s just, I’m not sure why someone like you would be interested in… me. I mean, aside from my obvious sex appeal.” He hopes his grin is roguish. “Sorry, drink makes me honest.”
Something worked. The stranger laughs, and not unkindly. He keeps moving his head in time to the music, even though he’s not dancing. “Why not? You’re alone and I’m alone, arguably the default and it doesn’t need to be. Look around: everyone’s finding someone to spend their time with. And as I said, you’re not so bad yourself. Your eyes…”
“Oh, please,” says John, sitting up a little straighter. “Tell me about my eyes, go on. I’m listening.”
The stranger squints a little. Of course, it’d be very difficult to see John’s eyes in this semi-darkness. “Their color,” he says at last. “Not brown, and not blue either. How did you manage that? Gorgeous.”
“Same way you managed those eyes of yours, I expect.” John tries to get a better look at them; up close, he can see that the stranger’s pupils are dilated. Could be an effect of the semi-darkness, only briefly illuminated by the strobes, but it could be a symptom of something more sinister. “I can’t tell what color they are, either.”
“It changes depending upon the lighting. Not even I know, and I try to know everything.” The stranger reaches out and brushes John’s jaw with his hand, angling him so that they’re better positioned to stare into each other’s eyes. If John were thinking more clearly, he’d realize that this is all very calculated: the body language, the flirting. He is not, however, thinking that clearly.
“Everything, mm?” he asks, momentarily distracted by the stranger’s long eyelashes. “Well, then, what else can you tell me about myself?”
John blinks. “Pardon?”
“You’re with the military, yes?” says the stranger. “I saw it before you decided to talk to me—the sort of ‘pull it together, soldier’ steeling of resolve. Haven’t seen much of the battlefield, though, have you?”
John shifts on his barstool, now slightly uncomfortable and not just because the bloody thing isn’t padded and he hasn’t stood up for far too long. Still, it’s intriguing. “Wow,” he says. “You’re very keen.”
“Give me your hand.”
After a moment’s hesitation, John unglues his dominant hand from the bottom of his glass and relinquishes it to the stranger, who turns it over and over, studying John’s palm, his fingernails. John chuckles. “Reading my palm, are you? Some kind of psychic?”
The stranger doesn’t answer. He pulls John’s hand closer and, curiously enough, gives it a good sniff. Then he rubs into the palm with his thumb, and then, finally, deliberately, he kisses a few of John’s fingers. John squirms. “Medical profession,” the stranger murmurs, maybe oblivious, maybe just being a little shit. “Doctor? Or particularly bad OCD. No one else keeps their hands this clean—nails clipped.”
“Yeah,” says John, still dazed from the brush of lips against skin. The stranger’s lips are very soft, softer than a few of John’s ex-girlfriends’. He clears his throat. “Army doctor. Um. John.”
“John the army doctor.” A sly smile, an upward flick of his eyes—this time he is being a little shit, certainly—and the stranger kisses John’s fingertips again, like some sort of drug-addicted thinly clad knight. “Pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“Likewise.” John gets it together, then, shakes himself awake, and, realizing that he doesn’t have to be the passive party here, brushes his thumb lightly over the man’s plush lower lip. “Don’t you have a name?”
“No,” says the stranger with surprising seriousness. “I’m no one in particular.” He licks John’s thumb so softly that John isn’t even sure anything’s happened, but he can’t mistake—this is escalating quickly, and he can’t quite bring himself to mind.
“Are you sure?” John asks, raising his eyebrows. “Because I have a feeling I’ll need something to moan later on.”
The stranger’s indescribable eyes sparkle with mirth, or lust, or both. “Pick any name,” he says. “I’ll answer to it.”
“Hardly fair,” says John, who takes a chance and dips the tip of his thumb into the stranger’s mouth. “I gave you mine…”
“I’m not interested in playing fair,” says the stranger, which is obvious when he begins sucking on John’s thumb. John’s mouth opens, a small “o,” but he maintains eye contact, and the stranger relents, finally. “My name’s too unique,” he confesses, nuzzling into John’s hand so that John is now cupping his cheek. “Half of London’s named John. But if you insist… Basil.”
“Basil,” John repeats. “That is unique.”
“It’s an alias.”
“A sexy alias.”
Basil sighs, not patronizingly or anything—almost dreamily, as if he can’t believe his lucky find. John knows the feeling. “You’re going to ask me whose place we should head back to,” Basil says.
“Took the words out of my mouth.”
“But before you do, I have one question.”
“Mm.” Basil licks his lips. “What’s a straight man doing in a gay bar?”
John takes his hand away and reaches for the mystery drink on the bar. Now he needs his liquid courage. From the way it burns going down, he thinks whiskey, or something with whiskey in it. He also thinks someone ought to cut him off. This is too much. He is veering dangerously into hallucination territory. “How do you know I’m straight?” he demands.
“Your clothing gives you away,” Basil says, making it sound like the most obvious thing in the entire world. “The way you’ve kept to yourself the entire time you’ve been here. And you’re apparently not attracted to anyone in this club.”
“Except you,” John says, the words falling off of his tongue.
Basil smiles, tossing his head so that his curls, which have fallen low on his forehead with all that hand-nuzzling, don’t block his eyes. “Yeah,” he says. “Except me.”
“Well,” says John, who would like nothing more than to get off the subject, “I don’t think it’s any of your business, in fact.”
“But you’ve already got theories.”
“Maybe two or three.”
“Well,” John says again, “keep them to yourself.” Which is probably the least graceful segue into a kiss that he has ever uttered, but it works, because when he leans in, and lips meet and then part to give way to tongues, Basil doesn’t pull back. Warmth, realer than the burning of the whiskey, spreads throughout John’s body. He closes his eyes and thinks that maybe he’s straight and maybe Basil’s a crazy would-be psychic, but whatever is about to happen after this is not worth missing out on because of a little thing like confusion over his sexuality.
“So,” he asks when they separate, just a fraction of an inch apart. “My place or yours?”