Author's note: Sorry for the really long delay between updates! I'm both working and studying, so I kind of lost focus there for a while. In the meantime, thank you SO MUCH for the fantastic reviews and emails asking me to update – it means a lot. This is the second last chapter, and the last one will be up by next weekend.
Many thanks to Kseniya who asked whether she could translate this story to Russian. FF won't let me paste a link here, so if you're interested, it is at: diary dot ru slash ~Nightrunners
Alec felt like rubbing his eyes, but he knew that it wouldn't do any good, and he would just look stupid. He sagged against the counter, openly gawking at the man in front of him. Sure, the dark hair was much shorter, and he looked a bit older. But it was definitely Seregil, down to the warm grey eyes and that familiar crooked grin, dressed in a leather jacket and dark jeans. Then his grin faltered as he noticed Alec was staring at him. And still staring.
"Um, you're Alec, right?" The man who seemed to be Seregil waved at him. "Hello?"
"Oh, sorry." Alec was still beyond stunned. "You're...you're..."
"I'm Rolan, the singer of Silverleaf." The man held out a hand, and Alec looked at it for a while before simply shaking it in a daze. "Micum pointed you out to me. Sorry I wasn't around yesterday when you met the rest of the band, I was buying a motorcycle off an old friend."
"Oh." Alec just kept blinking owlishly at this man called Rolan, still utterly stunned at just how much he resembled Seregil.
"Y'know, you look kind of familiar," Rolan said, before muttering to himself, "But it's probably wishful thinking anyway."
"Never mind." Rolan smiled at him, and Alec could feel the sides of his face turning warm in a familiar blush. "I owe you a drink. And a huge apology. I mean, I should have told you earlier."
"Told me about what?"
"Thero. And his emails. He's furious with me." Rolan rolled his eyes. "Anyway, what happened was that Thero got married a month or so ago. During his honeymoon, he asked me to check his business emails and take care of any outstanding stuff, especially if we heard from you guys," he explained.
"Ohhhhhh." It was all starting to make sense to Alec now. A lot of sense. "Wait. So all this while, I was actually talking to you in those emails?"
Rolan nodded with a grin. "Yeah. Come on, would Thero look like he's cool enough to listen to Bloc Party? He probably thought you were talking about, y'know, an actual block party."
Alec laughed. There was that familiar sense of humour. "Hey, you wanted a drink, right?"
"Yeah. I was going to buy you one as an apology." Now Rolan was looking closely at Alec, those expressive gray eyes so warm and equally familiar. "You know, I hope this doesn't sound creepy or lame. But we really haven't met before, have we? I feel like I've met you before."
"No." Alec found his smile widening, and a spark of hope flared deep inside his heart. "No, we met this evening for the first time."
Almost everyone had the same reaction to Rolan: they stared at him with their mouths open, and Beka had even gasped when she met him for the first time. Rolan's resemblance to Seregil was extremely uncanny, but Alec could spot the little differences. For one thing, they had different accents, and they even had different ways of laughing. One thing was the same, though: they both had the same crooked grin, and every time Rolan flashed that at him, Alec had to pinch himself and remember he wasn't in a dream.
As for the band, they had a fantastic reception whenever they took to the stage. They were much better than Birth Of The Cool had ever been, and Micum was extremely pleased with the feedback he was receiving from the patrons. Rolan was also the consummate showman, often drawing cheers and whistles from the crowd, and Alec wasn't oblivious to the overwhelming amount of female (and some male) attention that Rolan was getting. Probably it was a combination of his stage presence, charm and looks, and even Micum had difficulty tearing his eyes away.
For Alec, it had been easier for him to adjust, at least after the initial shock had worn off. For the next few weeks, there were a lot of other distractions: he was taking on more shifts at work, and the new semester was going to start soon. Rolan seemed to be busy too, having to deal with band rehearsals and moving into his new rented apartment. So Alec didn't get to talk to him as much as he would like, but he was getting to know the rest of the band too, especially Thero and Klia, who were actually quite nice.
Alec was clearing some dirty glasses off a table one night after closing when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Looking up hopefully, he tried not to look disappointed when he realised it was Beka. "Hey, hot stuff." She was grinning at him. "Nyal and I are hitting The Supper Club for a few drinks after we close up. You coming?"
"Nah, I'm kind of beat." Alec let his shoulders slump, a clear indication of his exhaustion. "I should be heading home."
"That's too bad." Beka's grin only grew wider. "Because the band is coming with us."
"Oh." Alec pretended to shrug, hiding the little ball of excitement brewing in his stomach. "I suppose I could spare an hour or two, if you insist."
Beka's laugh was so loud that the band looked over from where they were standing on stage, packing their equipment. Alec was rather embarrassed, but it didn't escape his notice how Rolan's gaze lingered on him longer than the rest. Alec quickly looked away, feeling his face heat up in a flush. "Come on, Beka, it's not that funny," he mumbled.
"Oh, I beg to differ." She was still wiping tears of laughter from her eyes. "You really couldn't be any more obvious, Alec. Just one mention of Sere- I mean, Rolan, and you're ready to roll over."
"He's not Seregil, okay?" Alec said. "And besides, Rolan's not interested."
"How do you know that?" Beka retorted. "Did he turn you down?"
"No." Alec was slowly getting exasperated. "I can tell, okay? He hasn't asked me out or anything. I don't even know if he's straight or not!"
Beka seemed to be chewing on the inside of her cheek. "Okay, listen," she said. "Here's the thing. Last week, I overheard Rolan asking my dad if he had any HR policy about band members dating the staff."
Alec's eyebrows shot up, but he said nothing. This was news to him.
Beka watched him closely. "Anyway, I think he was referring to you, because Dad nicely told him to back off for a bit because you had just gone through a rough patch. And Sere- Rolan seemed to know this! He said you guys talked about it over email."
Suddenly the whole situation just seemed really funny and weird. Alec wanted to laugh. How odd was it that the guy Alec had been complaining about in his emails was actually Rolan himself? Well, technically it wasn't really Rolan, but it was just semantics, really. Seregil and Rolan. Rolan and Seregil. So similar, but so different.
"You know what, I'm definitely going with you guys," Alec said, much to Beka's delight. "Because I really, really need a drink right now."
Steb and Mirn were extremely involved in some cutthroat drinking game that involved a lot of silly dares, and Alec had wisely opted out earlier in the game when he had been made to do some kind of Egyptian belly dance on top of the table. He had barely been able to finish the ludicrous dare because he had been laughing so hard, so they had let him off after a few shots. Rolan could really hold his liquor, though, and was currently in the midst of fulfilling his latest dare, which was asking the biggest bouncer in the club for his phone number.
"Here," Rolan said in disgust as he came back, tossing the name card at a hysterical Steb and Mirn while Beka and Nyal watched in interest. "There's your damn phone number. He gave it a little too easily, if you ask me."
"Of course he did," Steb said scornfully. "Look at you! I bet you could get anyone's number in this club, boyo."
"Not everyone," Rolan said, and for some reason, his gaze fell on Alec at this point. Then Rolan looked away, clearing his throat. "Time for the next person to get humiliated, please."
Mirn poured everyone a new round of tequila shots, and Alec watched as Beka burrowed comfortably into Nyal's large, warm arms. He had never seen her so happy, and he was glad for her, honestly.
"Oh fuck," Mirn muttered. "The bouncer's staring at our table. I think you may have been a little too charming, Rolan."
"I wasn't!" Rolan seemed uncomfortable, deliberately avoiding the bouncer's line of sight. "Dammit, I knew I laid it on too thick."
Alec felt warm and tipsy, and it didn't take a lot of thought to decide what to do next. "Here." He scooted nearer to Rolan, tipping his chin up before kissing him full on the mouth, tasting the lingering traces of tequila and the tiniest hint of salt. Rolan's eyes were so wide and so grey, and Alec couldn't help remembering that stolen kiss with Seregil in his apartment.
But this time, it felt right.
"Whoa," Alec heard Steb murmur, while Mirn was clapping enthusiastically. Nyal's eyebrows had shot up in surprise, but Beka was just smiling, all cocooned in his arms, not at all surprised. Rolan was blinking a little, touching his lips thoughtfully. Behind him, Alec could see the bouncer frowning at them before he turned and walked off. Still, it wasn't really the bouncer he cared about now.
"That seemed to work," Mirn said cheerfully, while Steb chuckled. "Good ploy to distract the bouncer, Alec!"
"Geez, you men are dumb," Beka muttered before she got up and squeezed through the throng of people on the dance floor, making her way to the restroom. Alec didn't dare to look at Rolan as he tossed down another shot, but he could sense Rolan's eyes on him, curious and wondering.
"Why did she call me dumb?" Mirn asked, confused, as Steb smacked the back of his head with a grin.
"Because you are, doll." Steb winked at the outraged Mirn before leaning back in his seat.
A very amused Nyal was shaking his head. "You know, you two should put on your own comedy act at Mickey's. I'm sure it'll be a hit."
Steb's eyebrows shot up. "Oh, I bet we would be..."
As Alec listened to the excited chatter, he was more aware than ever that both he and Rolan were silent, and as he stole another glance at Rolan, who was uncharacteristically quiet, he didn't miss the way the corner of Rolan's lips were lifting in a little smile, and Alec couldn't hold back one of his own.
For the next week, nothing happened. Rolan was polite and friendly to Alec as usual, but it was as though the kiss had never happened. Alec was disappointed, but at the same time, he knew it was crazy to rush into anything. So he remained professional, helping Rolan and the band whenever they needed his assistance, and he tried not to flinch as he watched pretty customers flirting with Rolan. The only thing that kept him going was the fact that Rolan had asked Micum about the HR policy regarding dating the staff. As far as Alec knew, Micum didn't really have any policy other than making sure his bar didn't burn down.
When Alec had finished working the early shift one night, he watched as the band finished their set, then went outside for a smoke. Rolan seemed to be looking around for someone, but he eventually gave up, looking crestfallen as he stepped outside. Alec was both curious and worried. Maybe Rolan had a date.
Frowning to himself, Alec barely managed a smile for Thero and Klia who walked past and greeted him, and now he only felt like going home and burying his face in a tub of ice-cream. If the sports center was still open, he would have liked to get in some archery, but unfortunately, it was already eight o'clock.
He stepped out into the windy night, but his breath was taken away by the sight of Rolan leaning against his motorcycle, his leather jacket draped over one shoulder as he squinted down at his cell phone. When he spotted Alec, his smile was radiant. "There you are!"
Alec blinked. "You were looking for me?"
"Yeah, I heard from Beka you had an early shift today." Rolan lifted his shoulder in an elegant shrug. "Thought you could suggest a good place for a late dinner? And I really wanted to see the city, so I thought it would be cool to see it by bike. But unless you don't want to go, then-"
"Rolan." Alec was smiling so widely that his cheeks hurt. "That sounds great."
"Really?" There was that crooked grin again. "Awesome."
As Alec took the helmet Rolan offered him and put it on, it occurred to him that Seregil would have never used the word 'awesome', and for some reason that made him feel even better, and as he climbed onto the bike behind Rolan and wrapped his arms around that firm waist, he thought that things might be looking up for him after all.
To be continued