Haven't done Flash Fiction Sunday in awhile. Felt like time to bring it back. I hope you enjoy. Happy Sunday, Love, Ellis
Mac Abernathy rolled over, groaning at the light stabbing through his lids. Aches assaulted his hips and back, his head throbbed in time to the curious pound of his pulse.
His first inclination was to go back to sleep until the pain left him alone, but a tentative exploration of the surface on which he slept turned up more confusion. Was that...dirt?
His fingers met flannel over warm, hard muscle. The expanse of hard chest rose and fell under his palm and then the night before came rushing back.
Shots after the bar closed. Sweaty skin on skin after that, out in the alley, against Mac's car.
The body under Mac's hand rolled and shifted. A groaning noise vibrated against his arm. Mac forced his eyes open in time to see Joe closing the small gap between them, one arm reaching out to pull Mac close.
"Hmm." Joe's eyes stayed closed and he threw one leg over Mac's.
"C'mon buddy, wake the fuck up."
"Buddy?" Joe smacked his lips and opened his eyes. "That’s what you’re calling me after last night?"
Yeah. Hell of a way to start the morning, but they might as well rip off the scab. "Listen, man. It's been a long time. Last night was fun but I don't think hooking up again years after one keg party fuck session means we're supposed to go steady." The words scalded Mac's tongue as they left his mouth.
Joe opened his eyes then and their arctic chill hit Mac full-blast. His old friend pushed away from the dirt floor and stretched, walking to the side door. Joe pushed the door open to reveal trees to one side and a field of cows—cows?—and braced his hands in the doorway for a stretch. Sunlight glinted on a silvery band around his finger. “I suppose you’re right,” he tossed back over his shoulder.
"Jesus," Mac said. "You're married?" He struggled to sit up, stand up, even though his head screamed in severe protest. He looked around the unfamiliar building and the landscape beyond. Nothing in the barn-like structure except some crates and pallets. "And where the fuck are we?"
Joe laughed. "Yeah, I'm married." He ambled back over to where Mac stood with his hands in his pockets, and Mac followed the hug of Joe's jeans on his body in spite of himself. "So are you." Joe gave what seemed to be a pointed glance at Mac's hand, and he pulled his mitts from his pocket.
Sweat broke out on the back of Mac's neck. "You're fucking kidding me." Mac’s lucky black gold zodiac band had been moved to his ring finger and jammed on tight.
Joe's blue-eyed stare, his breath, his heat, pressed into Mac's comfort zone. "You really don't remember last night, do you?"
Mac's ticker tried to make a panicked suicide leap out of his chest. "We didn't get married." That wasn't possible. He closed his eyes and fought through the haze in his brain. "You didn't show up until almost closing."
"No." Joe gave a wry half-grin. "You agreed to pretend for me." His brought his hands to either side of Mac's face. "You saved my fucking life. You have no idea."
"Pretend." Mac did remember. Doing shots of vodka with some tall British guy after last call, keeping an iron grip around Joe's shoulders until the man agreed to leave. "That dude who followed you into the bar. I said you were mine so he'd leave you alone." He squinted at Joe, and almost didn't realize he'd hooked his finger in the loop of Joe's pants. "Why did you come to me?"
Joe shrugged. "I needed a ride and a quick cover story. I thought you'd help. I'm sorry for springing that shit on you like I did I just—I was back in town for the first time in years and your old neighbor told me where you worked. That night, you know? The party? You never forget your first. Meant something to me, even if it didn't to you. You felt like someone I could trust. I never forgot." He took a step back and licked his lips. "I guess I just hoped you'd be able to help out. And you did. Thanks." He pulled keys from his pocket. "You can head home now. I'll be fine."
"Wait. What are we doing out in this fucking cow field?" And why didn't he want to leave? He'd been the one to jump on the whole "it's been real and it's been fun" business, and now that Joe was saying they could go their separate ways that didn't sit right. He coughed. "And what was with that guy?"
The more the clouds cleared in his memory, the more clearly Mac could see an image in his head of Joe walking into Cebu's the night before with the look of a man who had something real to fear bearing down on him. The guy who'd come in right after, burning with possession and disingenuous charm? Dressed all wrong for Smythe’s little townie bar, that guy had reeked of money and power, and a little too much psychopath for Mac’s comfort. Joe didn't strike Mac as helpless, but Joe had come and asked him to do something.
Didn’t seem right to turn and walk away.
"This land belongs to my family. I needed to retrieve something."
"Get what you came for?"
Joe pulled a small, bronze key from his back and added it to the key ring in his hand. "Good to go." He smiled at Mac. "Thank you for everything. Really."
Mac rubbed his aching skull. "Doesn't seem like I was much help." He'd worked security at Cebu for so long, he'd stopped drinking much. For a big guy, he didn't hold his liquor so well.
Joe turned again. "You were there when it mattered. You made Stephan think I'd moved on, and it was what he needed to see to leave. I hope." He blew out a breath, hardening his jaw and buttoning his flannel the rest of the way. "We should go. You need to get home, and we need to be gone in case Stephan tries to look for me here. The land is in my brother in law's name but you never know."
Mac nodded. He was supposed to show up at work again that night. Logic told him the smartest thing was to return to his life and let Joe handle his own. The man had grown up. Quick-witted and solid, only the wire rim glasses and the blue eyes lingered to remind Mac of the shy freshman kid he'd let fuck him at that jocks and nerds party. Still. "What are your plans from here? Is this guy gonna come after you again?"
"He’s not great with banking but he's gonna be pissed when he notices what I took. But now that I have that key, I can get money and a car. I can get a gun. Hopefully it won't come to that, but I'll be ready if it does."
Mac tensed. "Is the money stolen?" Worry burned his insides. Last thing they needed was cops bearing down on them on top of some psycho.
"No. Yes. Not exactly." Joe rolled his eyes. "Stephan will try to say so. The money is mine. He took it from me. I took it back."
Hell. What a fucked-up situation. Static crackled in Mac's head. Maybe it was the resolute expression on the man's face or just the way the sun kissed his blond hair. Maybe the memory of the man's hot skin sliding over his the night before....
One step after another Mac drew closer to Joe and couldn't quite say why. Distance was the thing here, but he couldn't make himself maintain the buffer. "Maybe I could stick around. Go with you. I haven't taken time off work in forever. You could use the company right?"
Joe blinked and met Mac's stare. "You think I need protection." He smiled. "What you did last night was great. I needed someone to drive, and you helped me get away from Stephan without calling attention." A blush flared on his pale cheeks. "I won't say I didn't dig the rest, too. It was...comforting." A dry chuckle. "And hot."
Mac swallowed. "But?"
"But I can take care of myself. You don't need to be my guard dog. As much as I appreciate it."
Mac hooked one arm around Joe's neck. "Maybe I want to stay with you because I want to stay with you." He pulled in for a kiss, quick and hard with a quick meeting of tongues. "Maybe now that I'm sober I'm hungry for you to fuck me again."
A cough. A chuckle. "Mac. I don't know what's going to happen. Where I'll land. When I'll be able to come back."
"Look, the owner of Cebu and I go way back. He'll give me the time. I wanna know you're okay. More than that, I wanna know you better. I want...." He took a deep breath, nearly tasting the damp earth and the lingering hints of Joe's cologne. "I want to really know you. You're not the only one who remembered that party. Cheap beer? Ditching our friends and finding that little room in the basement? It mattered to me, too."
Joe inhaled and looked toward the door. He turned back and Mac met him halfway with a quick kiss. "You're sure?"