Pub Crawl – A Roan & Paris Short

Since Infected: Epitaph has been pushed back a couple months to accommodate the new publisher, I’ve decided to put out some shorts as an apology to fans. There should be a free downloadable short coming soon, but until then, I’ll be posting short ones on the website. Consider them “cut scenes”, lost moments between mysteries. The first is all about Roan and Paris … and Randi?

**

“How did you blackmail me into this again?” Roan asked.

Paris gave him his most charming grin, which was powerful enough to persuade a dead man to come back to life. “Blackmail is such an ugly word,” Paris replied, putting his arms around him and resting his chin on Roan’s shoulder, so he could look at Roan in the mirror. “I encouraged you to go outside your comfort zone.”

“Is that why I feel like I’m doomed?”

Paris kissed him on the cheek before letting him go. “You always feel doomed. You’re funny like that.”

“Thank you for saying funny and not pathetic,” he said, as Paris left the bathroom and returned to the bedroom. He looked great – although Paris always looked great – in black jeans and his t-shirt that had a happy piñata on it, with I’d Hit That underneath it in block letters. On top of that, he added a brown leather jacket that contrasted nicely with his long black hair. It was a casual look, but one with style.

Not Roan’s. He wore old jeans and a Pansy Division shirt that seemed looser on him than normal, possibly because he’d lost more weight than expected this shift period. But he didn’t care, because he really didn’t want to do this. But Paris was making him. Too late, he figured out Paris’s superpower was making him do things he didn’t really want to do. He was a born honey trap. The fact that Roan knew this didn’t seem to stop his general influence.

Roan always knew he was doomed. He just didn’t expect his choice of lovers would doom him the most.

“You are not pathetic,” Paris said. “You’re just mopey. And occasionally sullen.”

“You’re enjoying this way too much.”

Paris sat on the bed and leaned back, propping his chin on his hand, and continuing to grin like he was hopped up on goofballs. “How can I not? You out of your element is always adorable.”

Roan grabbed his black leather jacket from the closet and shrugged it on, frowning at Paris the whole time. He didn’t know why he was bothering, as that just encouraged him. “I hate bars. I hate gay bars even more. If they’re not insulting, they’re fucking ridiculous.”

“And that’s part of the joy of them. I can’t believe I have to explain this to you.”

Roan sat on the end of the bed. He knew arguing with Paris was pointless, but there was a chance he could still distract him. “I’m sure we could have a lot more fun staying home, don’t you think?”

“I don’t know. I suppose it depends on what you have in mind.”

Roan leaned in, bring his face close to his. “Well, we could –“

The ringing of their little used doorbell not only interrupted Roan, but made him jolt slightly. He also looked towards the bedroom door, even though that was pointless. He’d have to set up a series of mirrors to have any hope of even catching a glimpse of the front door from here.

“Ah, Randi, right on time,” Paris said, pushing himself up. Before Roan could do anything, he was off the bed and gone, headed down the stairs.

“Hey, I was gonna make you an offer you couldn’t refuse,” he called after him, knowing it was too late. Paris wasn’t about to let his partner in crime linger on the doorstep.

Roan slowly and regretfully shoved himself off the bed, and he went down to join them. Randi Kim, Paris’s usual barhopping partner, was standing with him in the foyer, with silver foil extensions in her hair, and her wardrobe just too glittery and rainbow hued for Roan to deal with right now. “Are you dressed up like a pride float?” He felt it was a fair question since her pink t-shirt had a unicorn etched in glitter upon it, and she wore elbow length, fingerless rainbow gloves that would never be appropriate for any wardrobe ever. Even her cat’s eye glasses had big, pointless crystals on the frame.

Randi just grinned at him, showing she’d learned much from Paris. “I dunno. Are you cosplaying as punk Morrissey?”

Paris chuckled at that, while Roan scowled. “I can’t be Morrissey, I don’t have a quiff.”

“Punk Morrissey wouldn’t have a quiff,” she replied.

Roan rolled his eyes, refusing to admit she was probably right. Paris patted him on the shoulder, and said, “I love you no matter what, Punk Morrissey.”

“If you two are gonna do that all night, I’m staying home.”

Paris pulled him into a side hug. “Now now, we’ll behave. As much as we can.”

“Which means not at all,” Roan said, eying him skeptically.

“No, really, we promise,” Paris said, doing his best to keep a straight face.

“Don’t start none, won’t be none,” Randi said.

Roan sighed. He didn’t believe them, but it was too late to weasel out of this now. He’d already tried and failed.

Going out club hopping was traditionally just a Randi and Paris thing. They liked to find the loudest, tackiest places they could find, and spend the evening getting wasted and making fools of themselves, in between Paris getting all manner of attention. (This was inevitable.) But Roan had come out of his viral cycle early this time, and rather than cancel their planned jaunt to a new gay bar called the Eagle Pub, which just opened up near Capitol Hill, Paris sweet talked him into coming along. Roan could barely remember this happening, and still wondered how Paris crawled in under his defenses. He was good at that.

It wasn’t that Roan was opposed to bars. Well, not in general. Some were okay. But for the most part he found them depressing, and just good if you want to get fucked up. Since he’d never quite developed much of a taste for alcohol – although he tried – bars seemed super pointless to him. This led Paris to jokingly accuse him of being an “old fuddy duddy”, which was fair enough. He probably was. Sometimes he felt a million years old, and had no idea how other people managed to stay so young. Of course, he could probably blame some of that on depression, a bad childhood, and his general cynicism. But at least he wasn’t an alcoholic, and wasn’t that a point in his favor?

The plan was to take Randi’s poor, dented Miata to Capitol Hill, even though Roan wasn’t sure it would survive up the first hill. This got him called a buzzkill. But it was a beater car that looked like it was being held together by chewing gum and bumper stickers, and shuddered like a person freezing to death. Roan was kind of surprised there wasn’t a huge hole in the floor they could see the street through. Roan probably had it worse, because he was in the crammed back seat, where he seemed to share the space with an inexplicable collection of shawls (why?) and a tote bag from something called Sex Warehouse. It was empty, which seemed like a small favor.

While the car managed the drive, Roan was still shocked they made it one piece, and that Randi had found a parking space. It wasn’t a great space, but finding any was something of a miracle, although the tiny size of the Miata helped in that regard.

Roan lagged behind Paris and Randi as they walked arm in arm towards the club. He didn’t begrudge her that, because he knew she had a bit of a crush on Paris. But who didn’t? Most people developed a crush on Paris within the first ten minutes. Well, not in Roan’s case, but that was just because he really wasn’t into beards. Once Paris shaved it off, though, he was doomed, another recurrence of his life’s running theme.

Roan braced himself as much as he could for the club. It wasn’t just that the music wasn’t to his taste, it was the volume of it, and the smell of so many people in an enclosed space. He’d pretty much given up trying to explain it to people with normal senses, because they really didn’t understand how brutal it could be. Because they could ignore it easily, they felt he could do the same, and Roan pointing out he was a court approved bloodhound did nothing to change their minds. But all people were a catalog of smells, and his best coping skill was to label the scent and try and move on to the next, hoping they’d all fold into a mixture of smells, a big abstract painting of aromas he could ignore. But when you had to do that for twenty people, thirty, or more – not counting ones who had been there a half hour ago but were now gone – it got disorienting. It was like expecting rain, and suddenly getting hit in the face with a flood. He had no idea how he’d survived punk concerts, ‘cause boy, there were some scent palettes he didn’t want to experience again.

Paris and Randi swanned in the door – there were no outside bouncers or lines – and Roan followed, as braced as much as he could be.

But he was pleasantly surprised. For one thing, it wasn’t crowded, so he didn’t quite take a shot to the face. He still got a jolt to the sinuses, but the music was played at a reasonable level, and as it turned out, it was an actual bar, not a club/bar hybrid. The first floor was too narrow to have a dance floor, and the second “floor” – as this was a tiered bar – had pool tables. There might be some room to dance if it was a slow dance, but otherwise you were out of luck. The lighting was moody, skewing towards dark, and while there were some sexy images of mostly naked men, they were PSAs advertizing safe sex or the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Behind the bar was a kind of bearish dude, on the chunky side, but still wearing a tank top and looking as happy as he could be tending bar.

“Huh,” Randi said, packing an astonishing amount of disappointment in that single syllable.

“I like it,” Roan replied.

Paris glanced back at him with a smirk. “Somehow I knew you would.”

They stepped back and let Roan lead the way to the bar. “Why don’t you do the honors?” Paris suggested, although it really wasn’t that much of a suggestion.

The funny thing was, even though he didn’t go club hopping with them, he knew their drinks. As soon as the bartender came over to him, he said, “Can I get a pink squirrel for the lady, a pina colada for the hot guy, and the best microbrew you have for me?”

“Sure,” the bartender replied. “And by best do you mean the most expensive, or the best tasting?”

That gave him confidence in the bartender. There was a difference, but not too many people bothered with it. “Taste.”

“Gotcha.”

While he went off to get the drinks, Roan took a seat on one of the stools, and Paris slid onto the one beside him. Randi sat next to him, completing the line. “I’ll pick up the first round, but you two can arm wrestle for the next one,” Roan said, pulling money out of his wallet.

“Now aren’t you glad you came?” Paris asked, giving him a slight nudge with his elbow.

Roan hated to admit it, but he really had no choice. “I guess it’s not so bad.”

“Man, when it said pub I thought it was being ironic,” Randi said, frowning down at the clean but scuffed wooden bar. “Most of them are.”

“It only takes one to cause trouble,” Paris noted. He leaned his head on Roan’s shoulder, entwining Roan’s arm with his. “But it is kind of nice bar hopping with the old ball and chain.”

Roan smiled at the term, and leaned his head against Paris’s.

It was kind of weird. But it also was kind of nice. Maybe one of these days, he’d work up the courage to do it more often.

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