Summary: Interoffice dating is never ideal. Usually it's avoided at all costs. Tristan isn't going to let that stop him. When he sees Cameron it's love at first sight. He's gorgeous, intelligent, perfect and... oblivious. That's okay. Tristan just has to clue him in to how epic they can be. He's seen too many romantic comedies to fail at this.
Nothing More Awesome Than This
[ part iv ]
Friday was turning out pretty fantastic. Still high on the semi-successful outing last night Tristan was in a terrific mood. He felt like Leo in Titanic. He was king of the freakin' world and nobody could tell him any different. Cameron and Tristan shared a moment last night and it was the stuff that wet dreams were made of. So what, they hadn't shared their first kiss. That was okay, Tristan was going to step his game up and come hard. Cameron had better be ready because he was going to be romanced like the Disney prince he looked like. Watch him closely; Tristan was in it to win his heart. So when he found Cameron and Justin standing in the hallway, smiling and laughing, and standing close—well, he didn't like it. At all.
"Soon," he muttered, plotting Justin's demise in his head.
Alexis walked up to Tristan who was crouching behind a cubicle. "What are you doing?" She asked slowly. Following his gaze down the row of cubicles to the end of the hall, she sighed, getting it. "You need help."
Tristan waved her away. "Naw. I got it. I can totally take that guy."
"I meant professionally," Alexis clarified, shaking her head. "You look like a crackhead. Stop sneaking around here like you're recreating Mission Impossible. This is a place of business."
Tristan didn't spare her glance. "You aren't the boss of me." He stared at Justin with his sparkling white teeth. This wasn't a Crest commercial. Nobody should smile that much. "Look at him flirting with my boyfriend."
"You don't have a boyfriend," Alexis deadpanned.
Tristan finally looked at her, frowning sadly at her naivety. "Oh sweet, Alexis Bell. Not yet."
Alexis pinched the bridge of her nose. "It looks like they're just talking. Where are you getting flirting from?"
"Do you not see that smile?" He stood up from his hiding spot and pointed at Justin. "That smile says predator."
"It just says friendly to me," said Alexis.
Tristan didn't even hear the reply, eyes glued to the men. "Who does he think he is? He looks like a handsome shark."
"What?" Alexis uttered kind of disbelieving.
"Do you not see him about to devour Cameron with his shifty eyes?"
"What's happening? Is this a breakdown?"
Tristan sighed. "Be serious. My boyfriend is being seduced by the dark side of the force."
Alexis squinted at him. "You have a lot of free time."
He pouted. "I thought you were on my side." He gave her a disappointed look. "You've really let me down."
"Oh my, God. Don't you have work to do around here?"
"I expected so much more from you," he told her before wandering off and walking into the supply room.
It was why he originally left his desk in the first place before he got distracted from watching over Cameron's virtue. He needed to find out Justin's angle here and if it came down to it, get him out of the picture. No he couldn't do that. Cameron would probably give him the cold shoulder on their wedding night if he ever found out. Tristan couldn't take that chance. He had to fight fair. He looked down at his post-it reading the little list of supplies he needed to get.
"Highlighters where are you?" he muttered under his breath.
Tristan was too busy scanning the shelves in the little room to look back when the door opened behind him. No doubt it was Alexis coming to offer her apologies for doubting Cameron and Tristan's epic love. She was an awful wingman.
"Alexis, do you know where the highlighters are? This is ridiculous. I feel like I'm searching for buried gold in here."
The voice that answered was definitely not Alexis. "I don't know but I can help you look."
Oh no. Tristan spun around. "Hey... Rebecca."
The tremor in his voice had to be noticeable so why did her eyes brighten. He fought back a shudder. What was his life? Rebecca flipped her hair in a coy little gesture that made him want to throw up his hands and form the cross symbol with his fingers.
glad I caught you," she smiled demurely. "I wanted to ask you something."
He looked down at his shoes. Oh here we go. "Yes?" When he looked back up she'd somehow crossed the distance separating them and was now directly in front of his face. "Succubus!" he yelled, recoiling in fear.
Rebecca blinked. "What?"
"What?" he repeated, gazing longingly at the door.
She burst into a delighted laugh, slapping his arm. She held on and gave it a little squeeze. "It's finally Friday. Time to start the weekend off. Do you want to do anything tonight?"
"I want to do a guy," he said clearly.
licked her lips, eyes darkening. "Yeah, me too." She
trailed her fingers down his forearm and then finally released her grip. "So let's hang out."
"I already told my cousin I would do karaoke with him tonight so—"
Her entire face lit up. "I love karaoke! That sounds fun." She glanced at her watch and winced. "I'm late for a meeting but email me the details. I'm so there."
Tristan nodded weakly because he didn't know what else to do. Rebecca wiggled her fingers in a little wave and whisked out of the room. Tristan leaned back into the shelf mentally exhausted.
"What just happened?" he muttered to the empty room.
He wished a giant meteor would slam into the building and strike him on the spot. He was cursed. He had to be. There was no other reason why the universe was screwing up his life like this. Tristan's elbow bumped into something and he narrowed his eyes at the box of highlighters staring teasingly at him. He gritted his teeth and snatched them from the shelf and stormed out the door, his mind running through solutions on breaking evil curses.
Tristan barely stepped out of the room before he was bodily knocked backward. Strong hands caught his arms and stopped him from falling. He stared into clear blue eyes and once again his mouth ran away from him.
"True love's kiss."
"To break a curse. A kiss of true love," Tristan said breathlessly, feeling drugged with Cameron's close proximity, cheeks turning red. He felt dizzy and giddy all at once and his heart was flipping inside his chest.
you hit your head or something?"
Cameron took a step backward finally releasing the careful hold he had on Tristan. A sullen frown started to form on Tristan's face. He missed those hands on him suddenly with a terrible pain of wanting.
Tristan shook his head. "Sorry I was thinking about a project."
"Sounds interesting," Cameron said with a laugh. "Do you need any help?"
"I'll take help from you any day," Tristan replied, biting his lip and looking up at him coyly.
Cameron blinked. "Is something in your eye?"
Tristan stopped batting his eyelashes. "What? No."
His shoulders slumped. It was impossible but Tristan swore he was getting more terrible at flirting. At least Cameron wasn't afraid to talk to him anymore, so that was progress. He could give himself a pat on the back for baby steps. Now if he could get Rebecca off his nuts then life would be fantastic.
"What's with that face?" asked Cameron.
Tristan wiped the scowl from his face. Busted. "It's not you or anything. I think I have a date with Rebecca tonight."
See, Tristan had been watching Cameron for awhile now. He thought he knew what to expect when it came to his boyfriend. Instead of the sympathetic smile, hand squeeze, or softly spoken words of comfort he was expecting, Cameron threw back his head and cackled. What the—traitor!
"She finally conned you, huh?" Cameron giggled, shoulders shaking. His eyes were all crinkly at the corners. "This is amazing."
Tristan glared at him. "I liked you better when you didn't talk to me."
Cameron waved his hand, smiling. "Are you going to buy her flowers?"
"I hate you."
"She might be allergic. Might want to skip the flowers, then."
Tristan pouted. "You were all shy and bumbling. What happened?"
Cameron shrugged and there was an easy grin on his face. "I can go back to not talking to you."
"You know," said Cameron. "You're kind of strange, Tristan."
A rock plummeted down in the bottomless pit that formed in his stomach. Tristan's face fell and he looked away at the wall, feeling utterly foolish and ill.
Cameron's shoe tapped against his. "I like strange," he whispered and Tristan's eyes went round. "In case you hadn't noticed."
Tristan stared and stared some more, mouth hanging open and heart fluttering all over the place. "I, um. I hadn't."
"You grew on me," Cameron remarked. He smiled then kind of jokingly. "Rebecca's going to be the luckiest girl in the world tonight."
A thought formed in his mind and it was the barest strings of a plan that was forming into a solid idea with sudden clarity. Tristan grabbed Cameron's arm and his smile was a little too wide.
"What are you doing tonight?"
Cameron stared. "That's...random. I have a date with my Netflix account and a bag of popcorn."
Tristan's squealed internally at the adorable mental image. "Cancel that. I need your help. Matter of fact I'm calling all hands on deck. My cousin is already in by default because it's our hang-out time Rebecca's crashing. But I'm going to need you, Mark and Alexis to meet us at the karaoke bar tonight."
"What?" Cameron gaped.
Tristan nodded, on a roll. "Once Rebecca sees everyone there she'll know it's definitely not a date. And if she makes a move on me I can use you guys as a human shield."
Cameron looked at the ceiling, pouting. "Gee, thanks. Fun."
"So you're in?"
"I don't know. I might be busy tonight."
"You already said you weren't doing anything."
Cameron hid a smile by pretending to cough. "I'm suddenly booked up."
See, Tristan's brown eyes, dimples and dark hair gave him the distinct advantage of pulling off the perfect puppy dog expression. It was a little talent that earned him the extra cookie as a kid and scored him extended deadlines on essays in college. He hated using the big guns here in his workplace but desperate times and all that.
"Really?" Tristan asked, looking up at him with ridiculously wide eyes, worrying at his lower lip.
Cameron's own expression was a mix of emotions and he was looking at Tristan with a kind of distant confusion. He shook his head as if catching himself at something.
"I'll be there," Cameron said, grinning sort of dazed, and Tristan's expression brightened. "That face. Man. It should be, like, illegal."
Tristan nodded solemnly. "I promise to always use my powers for good."
"Your kindness is positively saintly."
"I feel like you're teasing me again, but I'm going to take it as a compliment. I feel like I deserve it."
Cameron laughed and Tristan knew he was blushing something awful because he was staring at those perfect lips like a prison inmate. Well, not quite so lecherous because he was imagining those lips forming words to answer a question, I do.
Tristan knew he needed to evacuate the
premises before he did something stupid like kiss Cameron stupid or start
reading the first draft of his wedding vows. Cameron's smile made him stupid.
Looking like that should be a crime.
"I'll email you the details," Tristan called out over his shoulder, practically sprinting down the hallway.
Once he was at his desk did Tristan finally take a deep breath and then his thoughts came to a screeching halt. His eyes widened. Did he really just convince Cameron to spend tonight hanging out with him? More people were going to be there, but they totally didn't even count. Tristan started to breathe faster, getting carried away by the awesome of it all. Dear God, he was having a panic attack. His boyfriend was going to save him from the evil succubus and they were going to ride off into the sunset. It was going to be the stuff of gay legend.
The blissful smile on his face made him look a little high. Tristan was tempted to do a spin in his chair, but the last time he did Tristan banged his ankle against his desk and bruised it something awful. So he settled for giving his shoulders a little shimmy and he fist pumped the air like every hero at the end of a 90's action flick.
Tristan turned toward his computer and began furiously typing an email.
From: Tristan Marini
Sent: Friday, October 21, 2012 2:05 PM
To: Alexis Bell
Subject: let's get crazy tonight
I may or may have gotten tricked into inviting Rebecca into doing karaoke with me and my cousin tonight. So I need you and Mark there to guard my chastity from the sea witch. But the good news is Cameron agreed to come along too!
Executive Assistant, extension 1101
From: Alexis Bell
Sent: Friday, October 21, 2012 2:23 PM
To: Tristan Marini
Cc: Mark Smyhte
Subject: RE: let's get crazy tonight
so cancelling the plans I had tonight to witness this train wreck. I'm texting
Tommy about it right now. By the way, good job on getting Cameron to agree. I
don't know how you did it. I'm both suspicious and impressed.
From: Mark Anderson
Sent: Friday, October 21, 2012 2:53 PM
To: Tristan Marini
Cc: Alexis Bell
Subject: RE: let's get crazy tonight
I assume you're paying for my drinks. I'll be there at 8.
Tristan thinks Cameron looks so good in his casual Friday clothes that he sneaks a picture when he's not looking. He sets the photo as his wallpaper.
Tristan tore through his closet like a man possessed. This was ridiculous. There had to be something in here that said I'm yours, take me now. Tristan glanced around the disaster zone he turned his closet into. He frowned and then glanced at his watch. He still had a few hours until he had to be at Larson's for karaoke.
"This calls for shopping!" Tristan declared to the empty apartment. The echo was telling. Maybe he should get a cat. If only not to feel so crazy when he did stuff like that.
It was a testament to how many emergency shopping trips he's had that he didn't enter the mall and flail about like a teenage girl searching for a prom dress with her dad's credit card. Tristan made a beeline straight to Express skipping over Armani Exchange because his store credit there was still crying from last month's excursion.
"Too soon," he murmured at the Armani Exchange emblazoned windows, darting next door into Express.
Tristan attacked the shirt display like money was hiding at the bottom of the stacks. He grabbed some tees, tanks, henleys, v-necks, plaid and checkered shirts, and a few polos. His left arm turned into one big rack as he laid his choices across his forearm that ranged in design and color, from dressy to casual. This wasn't his first rodeo. Once he had his tops, Tristan zoomed over to the pants section.
"Can I help you?" asked a sharply dressed man with frosted dark hair. He was tall, probably late twenties and his nametag said; Ryan.
Tristan wasn't one to stereotype, never mind that his gaydar was impeccable, but the streaked hair and slight lisp gave Ryan away. Plus, the way he was eyeing Tristan was a dead giveaway that he played for the home team.
"No, I think I got it," Tristan replied, picking up a pair of gray skinny jeans. He could totally pull these off. If he was planning on not moving tonight. He shook his head and put them back. He wasn't nineteen anymore.
Ryan held up a pair of red corduroy pants. "I think you'd look great in these."
They looked horrible. Tristan took the pants Ryan offered him with a smile just to be nice. Really he just wanted the man to go away. Ryan leaned against the display of corduroys and next to him was a sign that proclaimed; Bottoms 50% off. Tristan stared at the sign and then at Ryan looming over him.
"The irony is so real now."
"What was that?" Ryan asked, staring at Tristan's lips.
shook his head. "Nothing. Can I take these into a
"Sure!" Ryan led him to the left of the store where a hallway was taken up by rooms with little doors that came to a stop a foot above the floor.
Tristan made his way into the nearest available one and carefully sat the armload of clothes down in a neat pile on the bench. There was one thing he was never careless with and that was good menswear. He tried on a bunch of different outfits, mixing it up with dressy-casual, trendy, formal, and hipster and laid-back, punk. With each look he took pictures and sent them off to his closest girl friend, like any good respecting gay looking for validation in fashion. Alexis was treated to Tristan spamming her phone with over a dozen texts all within the span of five minutes. A record. He was freaking out here.
Her reply text came a minute and a half later and it said; Logout Bitch, you're done. Next.
immediately hit the call button. He started talking as soon as she picked up,
"First of all, you watch way too much Bad Girls Club. Second, my love life is
on the line here. Do you want to be godmother of my future children or not?"
Alexis' voice got really quiet. "One day, Tristan, I'm going to ask you for a favor. A very specific and very dangerous favor. You will do me this favor no questions asked."
"You must think your fashion advice is made of gold."
"Do you want my help or not?"
"This is extortion."
She cackled. "You big baby, you know I'm going to help you. If only to get you to stop queening out. I'm going to start calling you, the little twink who could."
"Oh my, God," Tristan moaned, hanging his head. "I never should've introduced you to Tommy. He's rubbing off on you."
"He has, like, the best gay slang," Alexis said with a squeal. "Half the time I don't know what he's saying, but it's so funny and catchy. It's like being on a reality TV show on Bravo or something."
Tristan placed the phone directly over his mouth, "That's not a good thing!"
"Girl, I'm going to need ninety percent less from you," said Alexis much to his dismay. Tommy was a menace. "So what's the tea?"
It was better to pretend it wasn't happening. Then she'd get bored and stop talking like a contestant on Drag Race. "I'm holed up in a fitting room at Express. I need help!"
"That's the truth."
"You're a sassy little thing today," Tristan pouted into his phone. "Come on."
"Aw, I love this lovestruck version of you," Alexis cooed at him, "You remind me of a puppy. You're so fun to play with."
Tristan growled into the phone, "One day you will outlive your usefulness, Alexis Bell."
serious this time. Knowing you I'm guessing there are pants in every color. Do
you have a white pair?"
In fact, Tristan did grab pants in a variety of colors and fits in denim, khaki, chino, and corduroy and twill trousers. He shuddered at a pair of turquoise jeans. What had he been thinking grabbing these? There wasn't enough vodka in the world for him to wear them tonight. Tristan fished out a long pair of jeans in white from under the pile.
"Got them," he declared, slipping them on while he cradled the phone in the crook of his shoulder and neck.
"Mmhmm," Alexis murmured, thoughtfully. "If you have a long sleeve shirt you like I would go with that. I liked that blue one from the second picture you sent me. Roll up the sleeves. Show a little skin. It will be a subtle sexy."
Tristan nodded and then realized she couldn't see it. "Definitely. I don't want to show up in a v-neck and white jeans. It's a little too let's go down to the clubs in the gayborhood."
Oak Lawn was the city's center of gay community with bars, stores, restaurants all with gay themes, so it was unofficially known as the `gayborhood'. Alexis laughed because they both acknowledged how sloppy they got in gay bars knowing they had a taxi on standby.
She was right the dark blue, cable-knit crew sweater was form fitting and showed off his upper body without being scandalously tight. Tristan slipped it on and checked his complete ensemble out in the room's mirror. He was wearing his blue Louis Vuitton leather midtops that went perfectly with his shirt. A happy accident that was completely awesome because he looked fantastic. It was casual yet trendy and Tristan grinned at his reflection.
"So?" Alexis' voice asked clearly through the phone's speakers.
Tristan beamed. "This is it. This is the outfit."
"Good. You're going to be hell when we shop for your wedding tux. Now I'm going to drink this glass of wine and finish getting ready. I'll see you in a few, honey."
Tristan grabbed his own clothes and the pile he tried on. He put them on the cart outside so they could be resorted and found Ryan waiting for him right outside the hallway. Ryan nodded approvingly roving his eyes down Tristan's body and smiling.
"I'm going to buy this and wear it out," said Tristan. "Is that okay?"
"Certainly!" Ryan agreed with a
flirtatious smile, leading him over to the counter. "So are you going some
place nice right after?"
Tristan nodded. "I'm going out with my boyfriend and some friends."
"Ah, damn," Ryan shook his head. "All the good ones are always taken."
Ryan's demeanor turned a little more professional after that. They shared a laugh and slipped into conversation about shipments of new clothing lines coming into the store. Then they switched to fashion in general and shoes and then fun events happening around the metroplex the coming weekend.
"I might get down to Cedar Springs this weekend," said Tristan, leaning against the checkout counter. "Maybe I'll catch you at the bars or something."
Ryan smiled as he busied himself with packing up Tristan's old clothes into a store bag. "That'll be great! You have to tell me how karaoke at Larson's is. I've never been. Bring your boyfriend too. He sounds awesome."
Tristan shrugged, modestly. "I'm a lucky guy."
"Well go get him, Tiger," Ryan said, dropping his receipt into Tristan's bag. "He's going to love that outfit."
A huge grin formed on his face and he thanked Ryan one last time before leaving. He needed the self confidence boost because he might not look like it but he was beyond nervous. Cameron was slowly opening up to him and Tristan wanted to show him that he could be that special person for him. Tristan wanted to pull himself apart, show Cameron everything that he was, and then have Cameron put him back together, piece by piece, sealing every part of Tristan with a caress and a promise and a kiss. It was so very much to risk, but Tristan didn't want anyone else but him. If Cameron didn't see, if he just walked away, Tristan feared he'd be forever undone and a mess of pieces.
He took a calming breath as the thought grabbed him by the heart and squeezed and it became hard to breathe. It was time to cowboy up. He was going to go get his man.
Rebecca better not get in his way. Who was he kidding? She was the inventor of cockblocking. Fuck his life.
Tristan's closet. He's running out of room for shoes and this is becoming a real issue.
The main restaurant at Larson's was fancy and typical of the Uptown distract that housed the more upscale venues in the city. The diners were dressed nicely and the music was low and came from a man playing a baby grand piano off to the side.
The atmosphere at the downstairs bar was a completely different vibe: the groups around the small tables brimmed with energy, servers weaved through with trays of drinks, a well-stocked bar stood to one side, and music poured from the stage. Tristan took a moment to appreciate the busty blonde not just crooning out Adele's Turning Tables but doing some type of interpretative dance across the stage as she sang.
Tristan already knew where his cousin was, spotting him easily at the end of the bar. Tommy once told him that, where the till was, the bartender would be. And where the bartender was, there you'll find me. It was said very dramatic and with a random Scottish inflection that Tommy was prone to slip into because he'd been dating Connor, a foreign exchange student, at the time. Conner had come to America to study and pick up the culture. Tommy picked him up instead.
Tommy waved him over and greeted him with a salute of his martini. "You look good. Alexis updated me about everything and bitch, let me tell you, tonight is going to be a mess. I can't wait."
Tristan made a face. "You're going to sit at the back at my wedding."
"Good luck booking that wedding that you speak of."
"Don't you jinx me!"
me order you a drink because you're going to need it," Tommy said turning
toward the bartender. He glanced at Tristan. "You still take scotch neat,
"A man's drink," Tristan declared eying Tommy's martini with disdain.
Tommy narrowed his eyes. "James Bond drink's martinis and he could kill you with a toothpick. And look good doing it, so you can go fuck yourself."
"So feisty," Tommy grinned, accepting the tumbler full of scotch slid across the counter.
Tommy adjusted his suspenders with a roguish smirk. The suspenders were fastened into a pair of dark gray, tight jeans and he had on a checkered green shirt with the short sleeves tightly hugging his biceps. It was a good look on him.
Tristan glanced at his watch. "People should start getting here soon. Its five minutes till eight."
"Then fireworks!" Tommy declared. He rubbed his hands together and Tristan resigned himself to the dramatics of it all as he took a seat on the empty stool. "So what's the plan for tonight?"
"The mission statement tonight is to keep Rebecca off my dick. That should go without saying."
Tommy rolled his eyes. "She can't be that bad. I know she has a little crush, but she knows you like guys."
He thought that now. He had no idea. "You'll see," Tristan said to that. "I can't wait until you meet Cameron he's—"
"Right behind you," Tommy interjected.
Tristan spun around and Cameron approached him wearing an awkward smile. He had on a pair of black jeans and a navy plaid shirt clung to his broad shoulders. Framed on Cameron's face were glasses with black plastic frames. Tristan's throat went dry. He looked absolutely adorable and hot. Two things that didn't mesh but Cameron pulled it off.
Tommy made a sound in the back of his throat and whispered, "Yes, sir."
"Don't even," Tristan said through his smile, as he waved Cameron over.
Cameron looked partly terrified when Tommy turned his intense gaze on him. It was awesome that he didn't immediately run away. He sent Tristan a lopsided smile and mumbled hello and it was a such a change from the open and teasing personality earlier that Tristan couldn't do anything but marvel. Cameron's shyness made Tristan want to just wrap him up and tuck them away into a corner and whisper secrets about what the other dreamed, hoped, and prayed for.
"I'm so glad you could make it Cameron." Tommy smiled at him and it was warm and friendly and Tristan was glad he was making a genuine effort. "I'm Tommy, this guy's my cousin."
"I'm actually happy I came. This looks it'll be a lot of fun," Cameron said, as a trio of guys took the stage and the opening melody of Bye, Bye, Bye was carried through the bar.
The room was filling up, and given the outfits and loud personalities present it did seem to be a theatrical crowd, which explained the far better than average performances they'd heard so far.
"Any chance we're going to get you up there?" Tommy said, gesturing at the stage with his martini glass.
"No way," Cameron said with a polite smile. "I would need to be drunk first."
Tommy turned back to the bartender and promptly ordered a round of beers. Tristan chuckled at Cameron's wide eyes and tugged him over to one of the round tables clustered in the room's center. Cameron looked a little looser when it was just them. It was noticeable in the ease of his shoulders and the tilt of his smile, more real and lacking nerves.
"So are you going to get up there?" Cameron asked, leaning toward him wearing a teasing grin.
Tristan smiled around the rim of his glass and took a sip. "Go big or go home, right?"
"I can't sing so it's better for everybody if I don't."
"Everybody can sing," Tristan told him.
"Give me a guitar or a piano, sure," Cameron said. "Sing and I'll make your ears bleed."
Tristan logged that bit of information away. While singing was a strong genetic trait in his family, Tommy actually fine-tuned his ability with training, Tristan was awful at instruments. He tried to learn saxophone in middle school but he quickly got bored with it and dropped it for dance lessons.
They chatted about music for a while and Cameron grew more comfortable, laughing openly and his personality shined through and when he smiled it was like the sun. A group of girls on stage were doing a fun and wild rendition of Tony Basil's Mickey, jumping around and playing with the patrons at the tables at the edge of the stage as they sang.
"Look who I found at the bar," Tommy said, depositing the beers at the table and Alexis wiggled her fingers in a wave.
Mark flicked Tristan's ear with his free hand. The other held a full shot glass. "I started a tab under your name."
Tristan narrowed his eyes. "Don't they usually need a credit card for that?"
"Yep," Mark agreed.
Tristan waited for Mark to elaborate. Instead Mark just blinked at him, lazily sipping at his shot and staring back. Tristan sighed feeling a headache starting to form between his eyes. What did he do to deserve this? All he wanted was a nice romantic evening and maybe a kiss at the end of the night. Alexis and Mark joined them at the table. Tommy waved off the empty chair next to Alexis.
"If you'll excuse me I have to show these plebeians how a NYADA student does it," Tommy declared, downing his beer and marching toward the stage.
Tristan chuckled at Cameron's bemused expression. "A lot of the people who come here are music majors from the schools nearby. Tommy goes to the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts. It's pretty prestigious." He put one finger against his lips and said, voice hushed, "Shhh. I'm pretty proud of him but don't let him know. He already has a big head."
"No worries," Cameron said quiet, eyes locked with Tristan's. "Your secret is safe."
Tristan's heart thumped so loudly he was worried Cameron might hear. Tristan stared, memorizing his face just this way. The moment was broken by Tommy's clear voice belting out Don't Rain on My Parade in a flawless tenor that left the entire room captivated. He was amazing as he captured the energy of the room into a compelling performance.
"I'll march my band out," Tommy sang with a disarming smile, pointing at their table.
Alexis blew him a kiss even as Mark cat-called and downed another shot (that appeared from freaking nowhere) and Tristan and Cameron lifted their drinks up at the same time. Tristan dug one elbow playfully into Cameron's side. Cameron laughed and a tingle shot down Tristan's leg when it happened, rushing through his veins like liquid lightning. It was far too fleeting.
Tommy finished to a round of applause and he joined them at the table wearing an exhilarated expression. It was a good look on him. Performing really was what he was born to do.
"Alright, it's your turn. I signed you up earlier to go on after me," Tommy said, winking at Tristan. "You're welcome."
Bitch. Tristan took a long pull of his beer and smacked the empty bottle in Tommy's hand as he stood up. "As always, I am in awe of your generosity."
"Since you don't have a gag reflex, does telling you don't choke still apply?" asked Mark, honestly curious.
Alexis snorted. "And how do you know about his gag reflex?"
"Please, have you seen this guy eat a banana?" Mark said, pointing to Tristan, who stood there horrified. "Dude has got mad skill."
Tommy threw back his head and let out a barking laugh. Tristan was this close to spilling his drink on him.
Tristan wanted to die and be cremated, ashes spread in the Grand Canyon. Because this, this right here, was going to kill him dead. They were the worst things to ever happen to him. Maybe he should put an ad in the classifieds for minions or something.
"A pox on all your houses," Tristan hissed, glaring at them.
He started to walk away when Cameron stopped him by grabbing his wrist. Cameron looked up at him, suddenly everything went very still, and Tristan pulled in a deep, slow breath entranced by Cameron's fingers wrapped his around his wrist.
"Knock them dead," said Cameron.
Tristan was practically choking down his feelings at this point. All he wanted to do was burst into a giant smile or take Cameron away so they could be alone, lay his hand against the sway of his back, and close his eyes and just breathe him in.
The smile Tristan sent him back probably gave him away, betraying the thousand emotions he was feeling. It was dizzying but in the most incredible way. Tristan headed to the stage pressing his fingers to the lingering heat of Cameron's fingers that seeped into his skin like a phantom touch.
There was a thick binder of karaoke selections sitting on a table next to the stage. It was organized by genre so Tristan flipped right past the power ballads; he wasn't ready or drunk enough to get on the stage and pour out his feelings into some Celine Dion. He wanted to use all the elation humming just under his skin for something fun and peppy. So he thumbed through the recent pop selections and settled on Hey, Soul Sister.
There was a little bit of nerves but that was mostly due to having Cameron hear him sang. For the most part he was confident. Tristan wasn't a trained performer like Tommy but he wasn't a slouch either. He didn't have to worry about getting the set just right to hold their energy for a half hour; he only had to grab them for a few minutes. That he was good at. This was a cake walk.
he sang his heart out, did some improve choreography during through the
choruses, and blew kisses during the applause after bowing at the end before
bouncing back to his group at the center of the room.
When he got back to his friends, he was surprised to find a new face present: Rebecca had pulled up a chair at the table right beside his.
"Tristan!" Rebecca said, patting his empty seat. "You were so amazing up there. I didn't know you could sing."
"I'm okay," Tristan replied, refusing to acknowledge that her lips were painted with the brightest red lipstick he'd ever seen. Definition of whore red.
Rebecca smiled. "Aw, you're being modest. That's so cute. Seriously, you're awesome. It was the best performance I've ever seen."
Tommy cleared his throat. "Okay, let's not carried away. His talent is undeniable but we know who the star at this table is." When no one said anything, he pointed at himself, "Me. I'm talking about myself here."
Alexis nodded. "We got that, honey."
"You're really high maintenance, huh?" Mark asked, staring at him over his beer bottle.
Tommy raised an eyebrow. "Why? You interested."
"I'm uncomfortable," Tristan murmured.
Cameron patted his shoulder, laughing. "You really did rock it up there. I'm kind of blown away here."
Rebecca touched his hand, drawing his attention away from Cameron, which did not amuse him. "I'm going to blow you away, too. Promise."
Tommy made a sound that sounded like a dolphin squeaking and hid his ridiculous grin behind his glass. Tristan refused to meet anyone else's stare on principle and Rebecca rose up with a languid move, revealing a black cocktail dress, and her assets were on full display. Tristan was going to be sick.
"Would anybody like a drink from the bar while I'm there?"
Mark downed his beer and lifted his empty bottle. "I'll take another Budweiser."
Some of the light in Rebecca's eyes died, and she turned expectantly toward Tristan, and he just lifted his mostly full bottle and shook his head. She didn't acknowledge anyone else and wove through the tables to the bar.
Cameron blinked. "She's really... determined."
"This is my life," Tristan lamented and then pointed dramatically at Alexis. "You're in HR. This is sexual harassment. I'm filing a complaint."
"But you invited her," Alexis pointed out. Then she made a face. "And we're not even at work."
Mark sighed. "She's going home with me anyway."
They all looked at him.
He rolled his eyes. "She's trying to make me jealous. Girl wants me. It's so obvious."
"So obvious," repeated Alexis dryly.
"This is amazing!" Tommy laughed and he looked completely delighted. "You bitches are drama and I'm loving it."
Cameron touched Tristan's finger on the table with his own, just barely. It was stupid but it was enough to create a terrible pressure inside his chest like his lungs were being crushed. It was awful and felt so good at the same time.
"You can hide behind me if you want," Cameron said quietly with a cute smirk.
"You just love teasing me. This is how you get your thrills," Tristan replied and he's smiling already. "You say that now but she'll plow through you to get to me."
"I'm going to protect you."
Tristan felt the impact of those words like a brick wall felt a wrecking ball. It was said warmly and with such light affection that it completely broke the barrier between them. It was only a moment, but it was a moment of infinite width. Tristan saw straight through to the heart of Cameron and he was beautiful. Something flashed in Cameron's eyes that Tristan couldn't read. It felt like a prayer, like something he didn't have a name for. Then the moment was over as swiftly as it began and Cameron was turning to answer a question from Tommy.
Tristan shook his head. That couldn't have happened. Tristan needed to either continue drinking so he could keep evacuating to Wonderland or stop cold so he could get a grip on reality. He was like a gay little Care Bear with his embellishments and his reading more into situations was going to destroy his sanity.
"So how did Tristan rope you into this?" Tommy asked Cameron.
"Well..." Cameron trailed off. He drew a circle in the ring of condensation gathering around his drink. "Begging my have been involved."
Mark perked up. "On his knees?"
Alexis frowned. "You're too interested in his sex life tonight."
"Hell, someone has to be," Mark defended himself. "It's not like he's getting some anytime soon with the way he's pussy footing around."
"I'm still sitting at the table," said Tristan.
Mark looked at him strangely. "Dude, we know that. We can like see you and everything."
Tristan laid a hand over his heart. "Forgive me. I didn't realize."
"No problem. Maybe you need to slow down on the drinks, man," Mark advised, wearing a worried frown. He took the drink that was in front of Tristan and drank it himself.
"This is amazing," Tommy whispered under his breath, eyes suspiciously wet.
Tristan shrugged guilty at Cameron. "He's a pretty good friend, I promise. He just kind of grows on you after a while."
Cameron sort of gaped at Mark, looking completely bewildered by the whole conversation. It was a long moment before he answered Tommy's original question, "Uh, no the begging wasn't that... intense. He just pulled this face."
"He gave you full on puppy eyes?" Tommy asked, shaking his head. "Don't feel bad for giving in. He got a trip to Cabo out of our grandmother with that face."
Cameron raised both eyebrows. "Impressive."
Tristan winked. "Freshman year of spring break at college. Can't beat that experience. I ended up with a permanent aversion to Tequila after that."
"I went to Cancun for mine." Cameron tacked on. "I ended up with a tattoo."
Alexis grinned. "A software designer with a tattoo. Scandalous."
"We're not all computer nerds."
Tommy laughed and wiggled his eyebrows. "I want to know where it's at."
Cameron blushed and the smattering of freckles across the bridge of his nose stood out against the flush of pink. He bit his lower lip between his teeth and looked down at the table. He looked up and his expression was more daring than shy, and he looked sexier than any person had a right to be.
"Not telling. Only people who've seen me completely naked can answer that."
Tristan's heart heaved against his ribs. All the blood rose to his face and he knew that he was blushing more than Cameron. The thought of peeling every shred of clothes off Cameron and discovering the unmapped places of his skin, so Tristan could find that tattoo and lick and press tiny kisses against the marked skin made his stomach shoot into his chest, like that momentary rush you got when a rollercoaster spilled down a steep incline.
"Challenge accepted," Tristan said, staring intently at Cameron.
Cameron blinked and bit down hard on the smile he's trying to hide. "You're going to find someone who's seen me naked to answer that?"
"No, I want to see—"
"You're so fine... And you're mine. I'll be yours till the end of time. Cause you made me feel. Shiny and new."
"I can't. I fucking can't," Tommy giggled, wide eyed.
"Like a virgin, touched for the very first time."
Their gazes were pulled toward the stage by Rebecca strutting with a sultry smile singing Like a Virgin; her alto was so smooth that it was like silk wrapped around a melody and damn it if she didn't own the song. Tristan swallowed when she dragged her hands down her hips, dipping low, and winking in his direction. Hell was a 120 pound redhead.
"At least she's on pitch," Alexis said, leaning back to listen. Her heel bounced against the floor, her fingers tapping at her glass.
"If she's like this sober, I wonder what she's going to do with a little liquor in her, girl," Tommy replied, raising his hand to call over a server.
"She's so hot," Mark sighed wistfully. "I'm totally going to dedicate a song to her."
Alexis smiled slyly. "I bet she would just love that."
Mark lit up and got up to go put his name down. Tristan shook his head. If some kind of weird love triangle formed tonight then he was blaming Alexis. Tristan was going to get her a brick for Christmas.
Tommy laughed down at his phone and typed out a message. "I hope no one minds if I live tweet this mess."
"Hashtag: what, what, what are you doing?" Alexis laughed.
Rebecca picked her drink up off the speaker and did a little curtsy when the last notes faded away. She bounded back over to their table and was smiling satisfied as she took her seat next to Tristan.
"Did you like it, Tristan?" Rebecca asked immediately, looking up at him through her eyelashes.
"It was awesome," he replied honestly, because it really had been a good performance.
Rebecca's cheeks tinged just a touch of red as she gave a small shrug. "That song's been stuck in my head all day. I figured might as well."
"Cool," Tristan said slowly, looking wary as she angled closer into his personal space.
The room buzzed with a riotous energy when a girl with purple streaks in her hair led them into Party in the U.S.A., with the entire room singing backing harmonies at her prompting. It was everyone singing and the joy was shared as their voices filled the bar and it was like the whole room was a bigger and better stage, a party with no shadow of pressure and they were all here to just have fun. It was energizing in a wonderful way.
For once Tristan threw all caution to the wind and leaned into Cameron during the chorus. Cameron sang along loudly with Tristan, leaning a fraction of an inch deeper into Tristan's touch, just enough that when he threw an arm around him, his knuckles brushed the skin of Tristan's neck. And it fit. It fit so well it's scary. Leaning against each other and laughing and smiling and they couldn't take their eyes off each other. It's like they're finally in sync.
Disaster struck when Rebecca's fingers carded through Tristan's hair and trailed down to wrap around his chin. Tristan turned to her, his expression clearly portraying what the fuck, and then she was leaning in, and really what the fuck—a flash went off—Tommy's holding his phone out and from the gleeful face he's making the picture must say more than a thousand words.
"Girl you know he likes dick, right?" Tommy announced bluntly when the song was finished.
Rebecca blinked at him, all faux innocence. "News to me."
Tommy shook his head clearly seeing through it. "Oh, honey."
"What?" Rebecca questioned, turning to look at Tristan with a shark's smile. "Everyone looks the same with the lights off."
"You'll still be missing a joystick," Tommy countered.
Tristan closed his eyes and pretended that he was somewhere far away. Maybe a beach in Miami. That was still too close. A tropical island off the coast sounded better. A margarita, sunshine, and Cameron were all he needed because this was just pure fuckery going on right now. Finally he'd had enough.
"I'm sorry Rebecca but I'm really not interested," Tristan said, fully expecting her to claw his eyes out.
"That's fine," Rebecca replied, sipping daintily at her daiquiri. "I just like a challenge. Sorry, I came on too strong."
"Uh, so we're cool?"
Well that was easier than he thought. Tommy looked at Tristan when Rebecca wasn't looking and mouthed she's full of shit. Tristan nodded. He didn't believe this turnaround either. He wondered what angle she was working now.
The reprieve was short lived as the microphone let out an awful feedback echo and Mark tapped at it and held it cautiously to his lips. He grinned when the noise died down and he sat his drank on the speaker.
"Hey y'all, first time singer long time drinker," Mark's lame joke drew a laugh. "This song is dedicated to the foxiest little redhead in here."
Rebecca happened to be the only redhead in the entire bar. All eyes stared at her and she kind of looked like a statue, smile frozen, drink halfway to her mouth. Alexis took a picture with her phone and Tommy was looking like Christmas come early.
Cameron's breath tickled Tristan's ear, as he leaned in to whisper, "Is this real life?"
Tristan imagined scooting closer so Cameron could run his lips against Tristan's earlobe. He cut that particular fantasy short and answered, "I've been asking myself that same question all night."
"And I guess it's just the woman in you that brings out the man in me, I know I can't help myself, you're all in the world to me."
Mark had to stretch for a note or two but his baritone was solid enough to hold its own. It was a credible rendition of Foreigner. Everyone at the table slowly turned to look at Rebecca. A single muscle hadn't moved across her face.
"It feels like the first time. Feels like the very first time."
As many drinks as Mark has had it was a miracle he pulled the performance off. It was a testament to how much of a high functioning alcoholic he was. Mark flirted through his performance even as Rebecca looked like she wanted to have him killed. It was a beautiful disaster.
"So how did I do?" Mark asked after he came sauntering off stage like a fucking cowboy. He stared straight at Rebecca.
"Yeah, how'd he do?" Tommy asked, chin in his hands as he grinned at the redhead.
"Great," she replied, but it lacked any real warmth behind it. She picked up her purse. "I'm going to the restroom. I need to touch up my makeup."
They watched as she completely skipped the hallway leading to the restrooms and went into the opposite direction. She left out of the door marked exit without breaking her stride. Mark stared after her with a thoughtful frown.
"You know, I don't think she's coming back."
Alexis mimed firing a pistol at him with her finger. "Bingo."
Cameron bumped his shoulder against Tristan's. "Good riddance, huh?"
Tommy burst into laughter. "Oh, I like you."
It wasn't obvious but on Cameron's lips was the ghost of a smile, the only measure of how much this compliment pleased him, this wanting to be liked. A funny warmth spread under Tristan's skin. He owed Tommy a muffin basket for including Cameron like this, making him feel a part of the group.
"I hope Mark isn't upset," Cameron said, and he sounded honestly concerned. "He seemed like he really liked her."
Alexis shook her head, laughing a little. "You're so cute."
Mark had vanished from the table. She pointed and Cameron followed her gaze to where Mark was sitting at another table with three girls, max age was twenty two tops. They had shots lined up and were clinking glasses and toasting to who knows what.
"How..." Cameron trailed off, brow furrowed in confusion.
Tristan shrugged. "We don't ask questions. It's better for your brain that way."
The rest of the night went a lot smoother and the contagious energy kept building as they took as many slots as they could around the other patrons. Alexis sang along with Tommy (Telephone), Tristan with Mark (Dream On), Tommy again wowed the crowd (Firework), Tristan maybe tried to upstage him a bit after that (Sexy and I Know It, and he was classy enough to keep his shirt on no matter how much Alexis tried to persuade him otherwise), Mark somehow convinced Alexis to perform with him (S&M, and the crowd loved it), and more in various solos and combinations until finally Tristan pleaded for Cameron to go up with him, and it took thee shots, and for Mark and Tommy to join them before they piled on stage to take on Glad You Came to end the night with a bang. Alexis stood in front of the stage taking pictures and cheering like a drunken fangirl.
It was one of the best nights of Tristan's life, without a doubt, and they were a boisterous group as they poured out of the doors when the bar shut down. The October night air was cool but not enough to need a coat, this was Texas after all, and winter didn't really hit until February.
"You have to come out with us more often," Alexis said, wrapping her arms around Cameron's waist before stepping back and bumping into Mark who gave her a lecherous grin that she pointedly ignored.
"I plan on it," Cameron grinned, and the alcohol brought out his smile more easily now. It was big and uncontrollable and just undeniably happy. "I'm glad Tristan invited me out. I had a blast."
"I'm going back to New York this week but I'll be back for Thanksgiving. We're definitely doing this again." Tommy hailed a cab and he pointed his finger at Cameron as it pulled up. "I approve."
cocked his head, confused. "Approve of what?"
"Stupid boy," Tommy said fondly, shaking his head. He smiled his goodbyes and slid into the waiting cab. They waved as it drove off.
Alexis eyed Mark's sloppy grin and sighed. "I'll be taking the lush home. It's my turn. Remember we're using Mark's house tomorrow for movie night." She took Mark's arm and waved. "Night, boys!"
Then they were alone, just Cameron and Tristan on the sidewalk and there was a moment of awkward silence, and Tristan broke it by saying, "Give me your phone."
bless. Cameron didn't even hesitate before taking it out of his pocket and
handing it to him. "You're going to pawn it on Craigslist aren't you?"
"You know me so well," Tristan played along as he started typing. "If you're not doing anything you should come with us to Mark's place tomorrow. We're going to marathon Lord of the Rings. If you can't its cool, but you have my number now and you can hang out with us more often."
"I have a family thing tomorrow so I can't come," Cameron said, and the genuine regret in his voice weirdly made Tristan feel better, like there was no other place he'd rather be than with Tristan.
"Well you have my number, so call anytime. I do mean anytime."
Cameron laughed. "Very funny. You sound like one of those guys from the infomercials. Toll free number, right?"
"Is this like a dating infomercial? We can watch it sometime. I can make us a nice dinner, too," said Tristan because he's pretty awesome at cooking.
Cameron pressed his clasped hands to his chest. "Dinner just for me?"
"Or we could maybe go out or something, just the two of us," Tristan suggested and his heart rate picked up while he waited for Cameron to answer.
But Cameron just kept shaking his head, and he's wearing that bright, amused grin of his, clearly brought on by this whole ordeal.
was this bright thing in that moment and the implication of what's happening
hit Tristan right then. The predicament was strangely sobering. Tristan had
been getting unwillingly hit on all night and the one person he actually is hitting on didn't believe him. It's
"I'm hitting on you, you know," Tristan explained.
"Oh, I know," Cameron told him but his tone said the opposite. He clearly didn't know.
"I went to the mall today and picked out this outfit just for you," Tristan blurted out. "You make me worry about the craziest stuff. I might as well go for honest since you clearly don't believe me. I really like you."
Cameron fished his car keys out of his pocket. "I really like you, too. You want me to call you a cab? You reek of vodka, dude."
"I already called one," Tristan said weakly, just as the cab he called ten minutes ago pulled up.
"Alright, you be careful," Cameron said as he guided a dazed Tristan into the backseat. "I'll text you in a bit to make sure you made it home safe."
Tristan just nodded dumbly and stared through the window dejectedly as the cab took off. He couldn't believe that actually just happened.
"What," Tristan said to himself. And once more after a pause, "What."
He did reek of vodka, Cameron was right about that. When he got home he promptly threw up.
Sorry for the delay on this part. I had to save and buy a new laptop, so the rest of the story should come more quickly. I have two more parts planned until it's completed. If you want to email me do it here at Batmanhater@aol.com
Second Star to the Right Verse' here.
-second star to the right (short story)
-in our bedroom after the war (short story)
-maybe the sky will fall (multi-chapter story)
Pretend Anti Boyfriend here.